Brian Shulman hadn’t considered putting solar panels on his family’s garrison-style Colonial home before he attended an informational meeting about Solarize Hopkinton in the spring. After considering the federal tax credits, state rebates, and bulk-buying discount, Shulman said, the decision to mount 24 solar panels on the roof of his 1,900-square-foot home was “a no-brainer.”
“It is not only a great thing environmentally, but a smart financial decision in the long term,” Shulman said. “It became a financial decision — it is a pricy thing to do but the payback is not that long in coming, given the rebates in place now and the preferred pricing we got through the group buying. Hopkinton got to the lowest tier of pricing, which shaved almost $2,000 off the system.”
The Shulmans’ 6-kilowatt system was the first of 56 photovoltaic-power arrays to be installed in Hopkinton through the program’s Framingham-based contractor, SolarFlair Energy Inc. Shulman said he used a home- equity line of credit to finance the system, which had a discounted price tag of $23,000, but will end up paying closer to $12,000 once the rebates kick in. One-third of the installation price can be recovered through credits on federal income taxes, while Massachusetts kicks in a $2,500 rebate on the small-scale solar energy setup, he said.
The solar systems rely on a net metering system that records both energy consumed and energy pumped back into the electrical grid. During the day, when power consumption is less and the sun’s rays are strongest, the power generated by the solar array can offset the times when usage exceeds the electricity from the panels.
The Shulmans’ power needs are lower than average — an energy assessment performed as part of the program found the family of four used 5,200 kilowatt-hours of electricity in the last year — so the panels are anticipated to cover their electrical needs.
“We have a couple of toys, like our 51-inch TV, but we are pretty good about turning off lights when we are not in the room,” Shulman said. “These 24 panels should cover our energy needs as long as our consumption does not increase.”
But what Shulman and Cafazzo both are counting on is the potential payback from Solar Renewable Energy Certificates, which homeowners earn for every megawatt of power they sell back to utilities that need to show they use solar power. In Massachusetts, the state has set a floor of $285 for SRECs, but Shulman said they trade in the $300 to $600 range.
“We were the first system to go up in Hopkinton. I was eager to get ahead of the curve. I wanted to build up the credits as soon as possible,” Shulman said.
Jose Martinez can be reached at Martinezjose1@mac.com.