In the wake of the deadline for the Solarize Massachusetts, which closed Nov. 4, New England Clean Energy said it sold 50 solar systems through the program. With about 20 sales in the final weeks, the company closed strong.
The Solarize Massachusetts program was developed by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Green Communities Division of the MA Department of Energy Resources. “Solarize Massachusetts’ sales period is a compressed program where the community and installer work together to install solar and it just ended on Sunday,” said Jim Elkind, North England Clean Energy’s Solarize program manager. Under it cities and towns in the state partner with installers to offer bulk purchasing rates to encourage deployment of solar in the community.
Over the coming months New England Clean Energy will complete installing the 50 systems in Acton and Shirley. The systems include 46 PV arrays and four solar hot water systems, all but one were homes, the last a business.
The pricing for the systems was negotiated by the installer and approved by the state and town prior to advertising them. As the number of people that choose to go solar increases so does the negotiated discount rate. “Everybody who does purchase during the Solarize period gets the sale price,” Elkind said. That includes those whose systems were already installed. “Those people are getting checks back from us. Because the end price was lower than what they paid us,” he said.
It's not the company’s first year with the program. Last year it contracted with the town of Harvard and installed 75 systems under the solarize program. “We were hoping for similar sales this year,” Elkind said. They fell short. “I think one of the challenges was that the third-party financing market turned out to be volatile,” he said. The company that originally agreed to work with New England Clean Energy as a third-party ownership provider backed out and they ultimately changed to Clean Power Finance for TPO services, yet all who participated bought their systems either in cash or through loans with banks.
Another factor that may have attributed to the decline in participation was the drop in solar renewable energy credit (SREC) value. While module prices in the market declined by about 15 months—some associated system components also dropped slightly in cost, SREC values declined from $500 a megawatt hour to about $220 a megawatt hours, Elkind said.
Still, New England Clean Energy is considering participating in the program again. “It’s been a great program for two years,” Elkind said. But the company’s participation will depend on whether the towns participating are in its service area.