In 2016, rooftop solar installations increased by a whopping 95 percent in the United States, and the trend is continuing in 2017. There are a few concentrated areas of the country where the rate of growth is particularly dramatic. Over the past decade, the Northeast has become one of the most popular areas for solar energy in the U.S. thanks to major solar incentives and a need to combat rising electricity costs. Massachusetts is the top state for solar in the region, with the summer destination of Cape Cod is particularly popular for solar installations. In fact, on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace Cape Cod registered nearly 10% of all consumer activity in Massachusetts in 2016. In this article, we’ll break down the different ways a homeowner can go solar on the Cape and what they should expect for cost, savings and quality of equipment.
How much do solar panels cost in Cape Cod?
As of the end of 2016, the average cost of solar panels in Cape Cod was between $3.30/watt and $4/watt before any solar incentives. Since the average system size in the U.S. is 5 kilowatt (5,000 watt), solar may cost you $16,700 upfront but will drop to as low as $10,700 after the federal solar ITC credit and local Massachusetts tax credits are applied.
This last figure is already a great price for solar in 2017, but Massachusetts’ solar shoppers know that the ultimate point of going solar in MA is to maximize utility bill savings. The ultra-high cost of electricity on Cape Cod and across Massachusetts has in large part has led to the state becoming a leader for renewables.
Consider this: the average payback period in the U.S. for solar is 7-8 years. In Cape Cod, that break-even point occurs about 3 years earlier at a 4 to 5 year average payback. Furthermore, while the average 20 year solar savings for the U.S. as a whole is near $25,000, Cape Cod homeowners save $47,000 over 20 years on average. When considering solar on the Cape, make sure to compare both the upfront cost and the long term savings to take full advantage of Massachusetts’ remarkable solar payback periods.
What solar incentives are available in Cape Cod?
As illustrated above, the cost of solar before and after state and national incentives is a significant difference in MA. Below are some of the top solar incentives that we recommend to prospective solar shoppers in Cape Cod:
- Residential Renewable Energy Income Tax Credit: When it comes to clear-cut solar incentives, it doesn’t get a lot simpler than the MA renewable income credit. With this offer, the owner of a solar panel system can deduct 15% of the system (up to $1,000) from their state income taxes.
- Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC): In Massachusetts, homeowners can sell the solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) that their solar panels generate for up to $350 per megawatt-hour (MWh). In other words, if you install a 5 kilowatt (kW) system that generates 5 MWh per year, you could make as much as $1,750 each year by selling your SRECs in the SREC market. Utilities will purchase SRECs to meet their state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) goals.
- Net metering in Cape Cod: Solar homeowners receive bill credits for their solar electricity at the same retail rate that they pay for their electricity in Massachusetts thanks to net metering.
- Federal Investment Tax Credit: In addition to the state-specific incentives and programs available in MA, you can reduce the cost of your PV solar energy system by 30 percent thanks to this great government subsidy. Just keep in mind that the solar ITC applies only to those who buy their PV system outright (either with a cash purchase or solar loan).
What is the best way to go solar in Cape Cod?
Because MA is such a hot market for solar and Cape Cod represents some five to 10 percent of the state’s solar business, there is a large selection of companies in the area to choose from. One option is to look at the largest national installers and see what they’re quoting. However, be aware that a recent report by the U.S. government found that these large solar companies charge $2,000 to $5,000 more on average than their smaller counterparts.
Another way that some homeowners end up going solar in Cape Cod is through group buy programs that allow an entire community or neighborhood to go solar at a discount through a single installer. These group purchase scenarios promote competitive prices for solar. However, these prices typically represent the “base price” for an equipment package, and many group buy programs will offer lower quality economy equipment to achieve these discounts. It’s important to get the right quality of equipment for the right price to ensure your system performs in the long run. In order to feel more confident about the solar process, learn about the best way to go solar with our:
Three Tips for Solar Shoppers
Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry. For this reason, research would suggest homeowners should only use a group buy option if they also get several other quotes on price and equipment to ensure they’re getting a fair deal.
To find the smaller contractors that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $5,000 to $10,000 on their solar panel installation.
The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. As mentioned above, NREL’s recent report found that large installers are more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers. In the case of a group buy program on Cape Cod, the ability to select diverse equipment packages is crucial so make sure you get other quotes to compare against the brand that the group purchase installer is offering.
For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.