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Solar Panels in Massachusetts: A Smart Investment for Cutting Costs and Carbon Emissions

As a state known for being at the forefront of education, innovation and progressive policies, it‘s no surprise that Massachusetts is a leader when it comes to solar energy. The Bay State ranked 8th in the nation for solar power generation in 2021, with enough solar installed to power over 700,000 homes. An impressive 19% of the state‘s electricity now comes from solar.

But Massachusetts isn‘t content to rest on its solar laurels. With some of the highest electricity rates in the U.S., solar makes a lot of sense for budget-conscious Bay Staters. Combine that with robust state incentives and ambitious renewable energy goals, and Massachusetts looks poised for even more solar growth in the coming years.

So how much do solar panels cost in Massachusetts currently? What kind of savings and payback period can homeowners expect? And what rebates and incentives are available to make going solar more affordable? Let‘s shine a light on everything you need to know about the costs and benefits of solar panels in Massachusetts.

Average Cost of Solar Panel Installation in Massachusetts

As of 2023, the average cost for solar panels in Massachusetts is $2.87 per watt according to EnergySage. For a typical 6 kilowatt (kW) residential system, that translates to a total cost of $17,220 before incentives. After factoring in the 30% federal solar tax credit, that cost drops to around $12,054.

While Massachusetts solar costs are higher than the U.S. average of $2.66/W, that‘s largely due to the state‘s high labor and permitting costs. Equipment costs tend to be on par with the rest of the country. It‘s also important to keep in mind that solar prices vary significantly based on the size and complexity of the installation, your location and the contractor.

Speaking of size, a 6kW solar array may actually be larger than what the average Massachusetts home needs. Bay Staters only use about 602 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month on average, compared to the U.S. average of 893 kWh.

To estimate the system size you need, take your monthly electricity usage in kWh and divide it by the number of sunny days in your part of the state. Most of Massachusetts gets an average of 3.5 to 4.5 sun hours per day. So if your home uses the state average of 602 kWh/month, you‘ll need a system that can generate about 4.5 to 5.5 kW.

A 5kW solar array in Massachusetts costs an average of $14,350 before incentives, or $10,045 after the federal tax credit. Other factors that can influence your total solar costs include:

  • Roof size, material, slope and orientation
  • Panel efficiency and type (monocrystalline vs polycrystalline)
  • Inverter type (string vs microinverters)
  • Battery storage
  • Permit and inspection fees
  • Installer experience and warranties

The good news is that while solar panel costs in Massachusetts are slightly higher than average, the state‘s solar incentives are among the best in the nation. Combined with high electricity rates, Massachusetts residents can see substantial savings by going solar.

How Much Can Solar Panels Save on Electric Bills in Massachusetts?

With an average electricity rate of 22 cents per kWh, Massachusetts has the 4th highest electricity prices in the U.S. as of January 2023. The average monthly electric bill in the state is $141.35, or nearly $1,700 per year.

By offsetting your electricity usage with solar panels, you can drastically reduce or even eliminate your electric bills. Exactly how much you‘ll save depends on your electricity usage, solar system size, and the net metering policy of your utility.

Net metering allows you to send any excess solar electricity your panels generate back to the grid for credits on future electric bills. Massachusetts requires all investor-owned utilities to offer net metering to their customers.

Here‘s an example to illustrate the potential savings: Let‘s say your home uses the Massachusetts average of 602 kWh per month, and you install a 5kW solar system that generates 100% of your electricity usage. With net metering, you would completely eliminate your monthly electric bill, saving you $141.35 per month or $1,696 per year.

Over the 25+ year lifespan of your solar panels, that adds up to over $42,000 in potential electric bill savings! Even if your solar panels only offset 50-75% of your electricity usage, you‘re still looking at savings of $800-$1,300 per year.

Of course, your actual savings will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Your solar system‘s electricity production
  • Your household‘s energy usage
  • Your utility‘s net metering policy and electricity rates
  • Available solar rebates and incentives

Most reputable solar installers will provide you with a personalized estimate of your annual savings and payback period. On average, Massachusetts homeowners who go solar can expect to pay off their system in 6-9 years and enjoy free electricity for decades after that.

Massachusetts Solar Incentives, Rebates and Tax Credits

In addition to net metering, Massachusetts offers some of the most generous solar incentives in the country. These incentives can substantially lower the upfront cost of going solar and accelerate your payback period. Here‘s an overview of the rebates and tax credits available as of 2023:

Federal Solar Tax Credit

All Massachusetts homeowners who purchase a solar system are eligible for the 30% federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). For a $14,350, 5kW system, the ITC would reduce your solar costs by $4,305.

Massachusetts State Tax Credit

The Bay State offers a 15% state tax credit for solar installations, capped at $1,000. So for a $14,350 system, you could claim an additional $1,000 off your state taxes.

Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program

Launched in 2018, the SMART program pays solar owners a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour of solar electricity generated for 10 years. The rate depends on your utility, system size, and when you enroll in the program. As of 2023, the base compensation rate for a 5kW system ranges from 10.8 to 14.5 cents per kWh.

Residential Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption

This exemption allows you to exclude the value of your solar panels from your property taxes for 20 years. So even though solar panels increase your property value, your property taxes won‘t go up.

Home Value Increase

Speaking of property value, solar panels are a great investment for your home. A 2019 Zillow study found that homes with solar panels sold for 4.1% more on average than comparable homes without solar across the U.S.

Finding the Best Solar Companies in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has no shortage of solar installers, with over 200 companies serving the state. So how do you choose the right one? Here are some tips:

  • Get multiple quotes to compare costs and equipment
  • Check for licensing and certification, such as NABCEP
  • Read reviews and ask for referrals
  • Ask about their experience, warranties, and maintenance plans
  • Consider local installers with knowledge of MA‘s climate and incentives

Some of the top-rated Massachusetts solar companies include Boston Solar, New England Clean Energy, SolarFlair, and RevoluSun. Massachusetts also has several non-profit organizations that offer guidance and bulk purchasing programs, such as Mass Solar Connect and Neighborhood Solar.

Making the Switch to Solar in Massachusetts

With high electricity rates, generous state incentives, and falling solar costs, Massachusetts is one of the best places in the country to go solar. By installing solar panels on your roof, you can significantly reduce your electric bills, increase your home value, and lower your carbon footprint.

While the upfront cost of solar may seem daunting, the long-term savings and benefits are undeniable. Between the federal and state tax credits, SMART incentives, and net metering, you can offset a substantial portion of your solar costs in the first year alone.

Most Massachusetts homeowners who go solar can expect to pay off their system in 6-9 years and enjoy free electricity for the 25+ year lifespan of their panels. In fact, the average Bay Stater can save $17,000 to $30,000+ over 20 years by going solar.

So if you‘re a Massachusetts homeowner who‘s interested in saving money, increasing your energy independence, and doing your part to combat climate change, going solar is a smart investment. With so many reputable installers and generous incentives available, there‘s never been a better time to make the switch to clean, renewable solar energy.