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Absolutely. Especially now that Lexington has been selected for the Solarize Massachusetts program that provides fantastic group purchase prices for solar energy systems.
A typical 5,000 watt system installed in Lexington will save $25,000 in electricity costs over 20 years. That same system will cost about $10,000 at Solarize group purchase prices after Massachusetts and federal incentives. The solar array will also generate about $9,000 in SREC income over the first 10 years resulting in a total cost of only $1,000!
That works out to a fixed cost of about 5 cents per kWh for an upfront purchase. Zero down financing agreements are also available for about 10 to 12 cents per kWh with no capital investment or maintenance costs.
Yes and Yes.
The Boston area is a great location for solar installations.
A solar energy system installed in the Boston area will generate almost as much electricity as the same system would generate if it was installed in Sacramento - just 11% less.
A Boston area installation will generate only 19% less than if the same system was installed in Reno, Nevada. Interestingly, that same Boston area installation will generate almost double the energy compared to the same installation in Germany.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report "U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis" shows just how amazing the solar and renewable energy potential in Massachusetts truly is.
NREL has determined that utility-scale and rooftop solar power installations in Massachusetts have the technical potential to deliver 111,398 Gigawatt hours(GWh) of electricity each year. To put that into perspective, Massachusetts consumed 57,123 GWh of electricity last year. That means solar power from Massachusetts has the potential to deliver almost double the electricity we are using today!
One of the wonderful things about solar power is how well it works with the utility grid. When your solar energy system produces more power than your home currently needs, you can pump that power out to the grid and your utility will give you a credit for the value of that electricity. When your home demands more energy than the solar energy system is generating, you can draw power from the grid to make up the difference.
Unfortunately when the utility power is out, your solar energy system still needs another energy source to act as a backup - a place to send electricity when the system is producing more power than you need and a place to pull extra power from when a cloud passes overhead. Your utility doesn't want you to do that during a power outage because it endangers line workers trying to restore power. So solar installations are required to disconnect from the grid during a power outage.
One common backup strategy is to add batteries to your solar installation. Unfortunately the price of batteries hasn't fallen as fast as the price of solar panels. That means a battery backup system can easily add 30 - 40% to your overall cost of installation.
Another idea is to combine solar with a backup generator. This makes a lot of sense for buildings - like our schools and municipal buildings - that already have a backup generator installed. Properly designed backup generators disconnect from the grid during a power outage - operating like an island - and supplying all their own power. A well-designed solar energy system can easily integrate with your backup generator, letting the solar panels carry the load when the sun is strong and the backup generator picking up the slack during evening hours. The NY Times has an excellent article about a school that survived Hurricane Sandy by doing just that.
Installing solar panels on the Town's municipal and school buildings is an excellent way for the Town to save money and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Many of our neighboring communities have already entered into agreements with solar developers who take complete responsibility for designing, installing, operating and maintaining the solar energy systems - as well as providing all the capital necessary to complete the project.
In return, the Town agrees to purchase all the electricity produced at a price substantially lower than NSTAR's current electricity rates. This lower price is possible because the solar developer is able to take advantage of the federal tax credits and pass those savings along to us.