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 2019, 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. (See MassCEC Ownership and Financing Options. )

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 (MassCEC) is an excellent place to start, with a comprehensive Solar Energy section on their website that explains everything, including solar technology, state and federal incentives, types of ownership or lease options, and much more.

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 Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has Tips for Finding and Selecting a Solar Installer.
  • The non-profit Green Energy Consumers Alliance (formerly Mass Energy Consumers Alliance), refers its members to EnergySage, an independent web interface that allows users to compare options and get preliminary online quotes from pre-screened installers.
  • 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.
  • Still  have questions?  Check out Green Needham’s “Energy Coaching Program” described below.
Solar Hot water

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Technology Description: Solar collectors, mounted on the roof or ground next to a home, absorb heat from the sun and transfer it through a fluid loop into a solar storage tank (typically located in the basement or mechanical room) that stores preheated water. This heated water is then piped throughout the home to showers, dishwashers, sinks, and washing machines. Solar hot water systems can also be used for pool heating and for space heating.

Solar hot water systems are typically sized to provide up to 80% of a home’s annual domestic hot water needs. Since the sun is stronger in the summer, the solar hot water system can provide for all of a home’s domestic hot water needs during that season. In the winter, when the days are shorter, a backup heat source (often an electric resistance heating element) is used to provide additional hot water to meet 100% of a home’s hot water needs.

  • 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.
  • There are federal and state incentives available. Read more.
  • The Solar Hot Water  section of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center website is a good resource.
  • Still  have questions?  Check out Green Needham’s “Energy Coaching Program” described below.
Energy Coaching Program

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


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