Good news for Massachusetts residents installing solar

As early as next week, Massachusetts residents will have another reason to think about installing a solar hot water heater on their home—more incentives. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) will launch the rebate program next week, which along with other incentives can halve the cost of installing a solar hot water system.

The rebate program is only open to residents whose electric suppliers participate in MassCEC's Renewable Energy Trust Fund, said MassCEC spokesperson Kate Plourd.

Participating power providers charge their customers a small fee that is contributed to the trust fund, allowing them to participate in its programs. Participating utilities include NSTAR, National Grid, Unitil and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. Customers of municipal power companies that participate in the fund are also eligible. These include the towns of Ashburnham, Templeton, Holden, Holyoke and Russell.

Even though the program hasn’t officially commenced, there has been noticeable interest in it, Plourd said.

“We have had a lot of inquiries about the program,” she said. “We had a webinar last week that had about 100 attendees.”

The solar rebates will be based on the size of project. Plourd said the average rebate will amount to roughly $1,000 per system—expected to be about 81 square feet of solar hot water panels—for a typical four to five person household. People that install a system with components made in Massachusetts could receive an additional $200 in rebates, she said.

When the MassCEC rebates are combined with other federal, state and utility incentives, the rebates could more than halve the cost of a solar hot water system, the agency said.

The solar hot water rebate is based on the success of Massachusetts' photovoltaic incentive program, which uses Renewable Energy Trust Fund monies to help customers of participating utilities install photovoltaics. MassCEC credits that program for the installation of 34 megawatts of PV in the state. At present that program offers residents an incentive of up to 85 cents per watt for installing solar.

The solar hot water rebate program is funded with $1 million from the Renewable Energy Trust Fund. Funds will be available on a first-come first-serve basis.

Pictured: A solar hot water system installed at a former Solar Decathlon-winning home that's now outside of Golden, Colo.