Its a great time for consumers considering installing solar panel systems in Massachusetts. Solar PV system prices fell over 64% in the past 5 years. It’s figures like this that have analysts from Deutsche Bank reporting that solar is well on its way to beating conventional generation technologies on cost.
In line with this trend, prices for solar panels in Massachusetts are also on the decline. But how can residents of the Bay State make sure that they’re not paying last year’s prices? We’ve identified three things shoppers can do to make sure they get a good deal based on some analysis of price figures from across the state (summarized in the Chart below).
How much do solar panels cost in Massachusetts?
Looking at data from EnergySage – consumers are paying on average $3.57 per Watt (W) and as low as $2.90 per Watt before considering incentives like rebates and tax credits. For a typical 5 kilowatt (1 kW = 1000W) system in Massachusetts, the total costs range from $14,280 – $20,500 before incentives for a turnkey solar PV system.
Compare these numbers to market data published by another great resource for solar shoppers: the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The MassCEC regularly updates data on solar installations in the state to make it easy for consumers to keep track of the state solar rebate program. The data includes prices charged by Massachusetts solar installers for all residential and commercial solar installations that have taken advantage of the state’s rebate program (essentially all of them). The data shows that the average prices consumers paid in MA the first 9 months of this year was $4.90/W–nearly 80¢/W higher than the prices consumers paid via the EnergySage Marketplace. Which means, consumers would have saved on average $5,500 and up to $10,000 shopping for their solar power system on EnergySage.
Interestingly and somewhat disconcertingly, the data also reveals that the solar installer who did the most business in the state during this period–Next Step Living (NSL)–was at the same time charging closer to $6.57/W on average–about $2.50/W more than the EnergySage average, and almost $1.70 more than the broader state average. If their offers are excluded from the MassCEC data, the average state price falls to $4.37/W. This is a massive difference. NSL consumers paid anywhere from $10,000 – $20,000 more for their system than they should have paid with anther installer.
Some of the price difference is due to the fact that NSL at times is installing premium solar panels from SunPower. But that still does not explain the premium price they charge. The average price other installers in the state charged for a SunPower system is $5.42/W vs $6.96/W by NSL–a difference of $1.60/W or almost $10,000 for an average residential SunPower system.
Which brings us to our…
Three tips for solar energy in Massachusetts
1. Know thy market: Shop around
The first takeaway from all of this is: If you are considering installing solar panels, make sure you know the full the range of options available to you. You could check historic prices on the MassCEC website, but fresher, more up-to-date offers can easily be found. To toot our own horn, EnergySage, with our Marketplace for solar shoppers, is arguably the best (and only) one-stop-shop for information about solar and for comparing solar prices in Massachusetts – and beyond.
Shopping on our Marketplace allows Massachusetts customers (and consumers around the country) to get detailed, personalized quotes from high quality solar installers–and compare these quotes on an apples-to-apples, easy-to-understand format. These high quality solar installers compete for your business, and offer lower prices to stay competitive, as indicated by the lower average prices shown in the Chart above. When you shop on EnergySage, you’ll get quotes for solar loans and solar leases and PPAs and save anywhere from $6,000 – $15,000 on your turnkey solar installation.
2. The biggest company may not necessarily offer the best deal
As can be seen from the analysis above, although a company may lay claim to superlatives like ‘biggest’ in their sales pitches, this does not mean that they offer the best value. In fact, according to the MassCEC’s data, NSL’s prices have actually increased slightly in 2014 as compared to 2013–even as the average prices offered by other solar installers have fallen dramatically.
The fact that a company charging significantly more than the competition for a similar product managed to grab such a large share of Massachusetts’ solar market could be a simple testament to the power of their marketing and sales and potentially exclusive access to prospective consumers, and does not necessarily reflect better value they offer. In fact, the company may be recommended by your local town or city for those considering going solar. Could it be that many of NSL’s Mass customers may have decided on a different solar installer if they had been aware of other options and lower prices?
3. Different products for different people
Just as a Porsches aren’t the right choice for everyone in the market for a car, neither does everyone need the most expensive solar PV equipment. There are different solar panels and solar inverters for different needs. For the price-conscious, value-oriented consumers, it is possible to save thousands simply by opting for standard solar panels instead of a premium top-of-the-line brand. There are over 25 high quality solar panel brands competing for your business. You can check the EnergySage Solar Buyers Guide to see how they stack up in terms of quality, performance and warranty and how to select and evaluate solar installers.
Note: Please send us a note at: Hello@EnergySage.com if you would like to see our detailed analysis of the Massachusetts solar prices.