Thinking about solar in Deerfield? Now’s the time to act

  • In this July 28, 2015, photo, electrician Adam Hall install solar panels on a roof for Arizona Public Service company in Goodyear, Ariz. Traditional power companies are getting into small-scale solar energy and competing for space. The emerging competition comes as utilities and smaller solar installers fight over the future of the U.S. energy system. (AP Photo/Matt York)

  • A field of solar panels sits before a westward view of Athol on Bearsden Road.

For the Bulletin
Thursday, August 31, 2017

DEERFIELD — Interested in solar panels? Now is the time to buy because a state incentive is about to expire.

“People who are interested should really be calling companies who do the installation soon,” said Stephen Eipper, a member of the Deerfield Energy Resource Committee. “If your system is operational by March 2018 you will get the benefits of the SREC (Mass. Solar Resources Energy Credit) program. Right now (installation) takes about three months from when you sign a contract.”

Under the program, the state pays up to $19,000 in tax credits to solar panel owners over 10 years. Benefits last for the duration of the system. In its place come March will be a revision “anticipated to pay between 70 percent and 50 percent of the SREC program,” Eipper said. Another federal program in place pays up to a third of installation cost.

“Between five to eight years you’re going to break even. And by ‘breaking even’ I mean that what you’ve paid for on the system equals what you haven’t paid on electrical bills,” Eipper said.

After that, a system can take a house off grid, providing all its electricity.

Since recently installing panels on a barn beside his River Road house, Eipper has taken it onto himself to educate neighbors about the benefits of green energy. Eipper learned about tax credits, and net metering agreements with electric companies. Because his roof doesn’t face south, Eipper’s system will take longer to pay itself off.

“I thought that wouldn’t be possible because the only site that’s possible is a large east-facing roof. As I learned more I found that was still a possibility,” Eipper continued. “For my system, the expected credit is about $19,000. There’s nothing that reduces your carbon footprint as much as putting solar panels on your home.”

Eipper’s system is expected to save about $40,000 over 20 years in energy costs. For those who might not have the upfront capital to invest in panels, Eipper encouraged looking into leasing panels.

“The advantage of leasing is you don’t have any upfront payments,” he said. “What you get is a contracted rate you pay for your power. Typically, it will be lower than what you’re paying to the utility company. But all the credits we’ve been talking about go to the company that owns the system. You’re basically leasing your roof, and get a lower rate.”

Another option is to take out a loan, and pay it off with savings. Although the total cost of a system is high — an average of $30,000 — this is offset by elimination of electric bills and by the financial incentives. With these benefits, the final system cost can be reduced by more than 50 percent.

If it is financed with available low-interest loans, the system can be “cash-flow neutral” starting in the first or second year. In other words, the savings on your electric bill equal the payments on your loan, explained an information sheet from the Energy Resource Committee.