The deadline for a solar power incentive program in several communities across the state has been extended after unexpected demand for solar panels, state and local agencies said.
Solarize Mass, a program that makes solar installation cheaper for individuals by aggregating installations and orders, will give residents in 10 towns -- including Brookline, Newton and Medford -- another month to sign up for the program. This is the third round of the program, with a fourth set to begin soon, open to communities that choose to join.
"There's been great interest and participation by residents and small businesses," said Mark Sylvia, commissioner of the state Department of Energy Resources. "Extending it allows greater participation and a great benefit of that continues to drive the price down."
Because there are several tiers of pricing that depend on the number of installations, extending the deadline is beneficial for people who already have signed up as well, Sylvia said.
Betsy Russell, a Brookline resident who has signed up for the program and decided to buy the panels upfront, said she has looked into solar in the past, but decided to make the investment because of the assistance she will get in dealing with assessments and other paperwork.
"I don't have to spend hours that I don't have trying to master solar energy," Russell said. "It made it logistically and financially more appealing."
Russell said she expects her electric bill to be cut by about a third, and said she likely will break even in six years.
Officials acknowledged that the upfront cost is large, but said the program's model allows for solar power to be more accessible.
Homeowners and businesses can lease solar panels and pay a discounted rate for their electricity to immediately see savings on electricity bills, or buy the panels outright.
The cost varies between communities, but typical residents in Medford who purchase the panels can expect to pay roughly $17,000 up front, a number that is eventually halved thanks to a rebate and state and federal tax credits.
So far, 269 people with homes and businesses deemed suitable for panels have signed contracts, for a total of 1.9 MW of power.
Alicia Hunt, director of Energy and Environment for Medford, said the town had 100 buildings that were acceptable for solar out of 300 that were considered.
Hunt said some of the interested parties have been small- and medium-sized businesses, looking to cut costs long-term.
"They see that there's financial benefit to them doing it," Hunt said. She added no businesses have signed the contract yet, but she expects several to do so by the time the new deadline passes.
Courtesy of Jordan Graham