Source: Mass Clean Energy Center
Source: Mass Clean Energy Center
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. As of spring 2021, after two successful Solarize Needham campaigns in 2014 and 2018, Needham now have over 640 residential solar PV systems generating 5.5MW of clean electricity!  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.)

Source: Mass Clean Energy Center
Source: Mass Clean Energy Center
Where do I start?

Inform yourself.  Get an understanding of the basics.  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).

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 usually 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.
  • Still  have questions?  Check out Green Needham’s “Ask the Expert” section below.
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.

Ask the Expert

Would you like to talk  to someone knowledgeable about solar PV and solar hot water who is not  a salesperson?  Green Needham can provide expert advice that is free from commercial bias (we’re not trying to sell you something).  We can meet with you in your home or over the phone to help answer your questions.

What we can  do:

  • Help you determine whether the project makes sense for your house
  • Estimate the probable costs and savings for your project
  • Determine how the project will affect your carbon footprint
  • Discuss how to find contractors for your project
  • Help you review contractor proposals and compose important follow-up questions to ask
  • Discuss the “next steps” for moving forward with the proposed project

What we can not  do:

  • Design the work
  • Calculate firm costs and savings
  • Oversee the construction

Resources

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