Source: Mass Clean Energy Center
Source: Mass Clean Energy Center

Residential Solar: Where to Start

Solar Electric

Photovoltaic (PV) panels use energy from the sun to produce electricity.

And yes, New England has enough sun for solar! In the past few years, residential solar has grown quickly in Massachusetts. In Needham, a successful Solarize Needham campaign in 2014 resulted in over 130 new solar installations. As of December, 2018 there were 450 installed solar PV systems in Needham.

You may be a good candidate for solar if your roof has a southern orientation (not necessarily due south) and ideally has sun for at least 6 hours a day.

Interested in Solar Hot Water? See below.

What about the cost?
In the past, rooftop solar was considered to be expensive, but now the price of installation has dropped and there are generous state and federal incentives that reduce the cost further. Some customers pay the upfront cost of purchasing a solar array, but there are also leasing or power purchase agreements that allow customers to have solar panels with little or no upfront payment. (Explained in the Residential Guide to Solar Power referenced below.)


Where do I start?

Inform yourself. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is an excellent resource. Their 17-page Residential Guide to Solar Power gives a good overview without being over technical (or long).

Would you like to talk to someone in Needham who has solar panels? Green Needham has lined up “Solar Ambassadors” who would be glad to share their experience. Contact us at

Source: Mass Clean Energy Center
Source: Mass Clean Energy Center


Contact some installers

  • A solar installer will have software that allows a quick look online to see if your house might be a candidate. Initial solar consultations at your home are often free.
  • The non-profit Green Energy Consumers Alliance, (formerly Mass Energy Consumers Alliance), offers a Solar Program that allows users to get preliminary online price quotes from vetted installers.
  • Other ways to find an installer. Talk to your friends and neighbors — more and more people have solar in Needham. Find out what installer they used, and how their experience was.
  • Get information from the Mass Clean Energy website
  • Green Needham’s “Solar 101” program is also a helpful resource.

Solar Hot water

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Technology Description: A solar hot water system captures heat from sunlight and circulates the thermal energy to a property’s water tank. Solar hot water systems reduce the usage of traditional water heating fuels (such as oil, electricity, or propane) and thereby reduce the amount spent purchasing these fuels. These systems do not fully replace conventional water heaters, but can provide up to 80% of a building’s total hot water needs. Solar hot water systems may also be installed to supplement a building’s heating system.

Households that do not have sufficient roof space for a solar PV system may still have enough roof space for a solar hot water system.

Rebates of up to $6,000 are available from the Mass. Clean Energy Center (Mass CEC).


Resources on the Web

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