With nearly 4 gigawatts of total installed photovoltaic capacity, Massachusetts has one of the fastest-growing solar markets in the US. Despite inclement weather impacting parts of fall, winter and spring, high electricity rates and attractive solar policies have made solar panels popular in the Bay State.
According to CNET's sister publication SaveOnEnergy, Massachusetts is among the top 10 states with the highest electricity bills. Massachusetts' average November residential electric bill was $160.49, or about $1,926 per year. Investing in solar panels could save a Massachusetts resident more each year as electricity rates in the state will increase between 43% and 64% this winter. Going solar could help lower your electricity bills, shield you from your utility's price swings and reduce your home's carbon emissions.
Solar panels are more affordable to the average American than a decade ago. Research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that the cost of residential solar panels has fallen by 69% since 2010. You can take advantage of federal and state incentive programs to reduce the initial cost of a solar system, lower your monthly utility bills and boost your home's value.
Massachusetts solar panel costs
The total price of a residential solar system will depend on the number and types of panels used, installation costs, local permitting costs and other factors. Differences in local quotes and incentives also play a role in determining the cost of solar. Massachusetts' average residential solar system size is 8 kilowatts, higher than the national average of 6 kW. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's "Tracking the Sun" report offers pricing details based on system size and price per watt.
Typical solar installation costs in Massachusetts
||System size (kW)||Price per watt||Total cost|
Massachusetts vs. the US
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A residential solar system is an investment. While a cash payment will help you avoid a credit check (and paying interest and loan fees), financing or entering a solar leasing or power purchase agreement have smaller upfront costs. Joining a community solar program is another option for Massachusetts residents, especially if you rent your home or your property isn't suitable for solar panels.
Massachusetts solar panel incentives or rebates
Let's be honest: At an average of $28,504, a Massachusetts solar system isn't cheap for New Englanders. Thankfully, you can lower the price with federal tax credits and state-based incentives.
The federal Residential Clean Energy Credit (formerly named the Investment Tax Credit) lets you subtract 30% of the cost of a solar system from your federal tax returns after you buy a solar system. That means you will pay $8,551.20 less for the average solar system installed in Massachusetts after using the federal credit. Most batteries will also qualify for the federal Clean Energy Credit.
The Inflation Reduction Act is a landmark federal climate bill passed in August 2022. Thanks to the IRA, Americans can invest in residential solar energy and lower its cost with the federal tax credit until 2032. The credit will decrease to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034. It's set to expire in 2035. To receive the Clean Energy Credit, you can complete form 5695 (PDF) and submit it to the IRS. The IRS instructions can help you complete the form. Following the IRS approval, you will get a 30% credit on your federal tax return for the year.
Massachusetts also offers several residential incentive programs to cut the cost of solar. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency provides a comprehensive list of all incentives in the Bay State. Here are the most significant ones worth noting.
|State tax credit||Massachusetts provides a 15% solar tax credit with a maximum credit of $1,000 for purchased solar systems. You can claim the tax credit on filing your income tax for the year. You can carry it over for three successive years if you have excess credit.|
|Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target||The SMART program pays customers of Eversource, National Grid and Unitil a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour for the electricity produced by residential solar panels. The SMART program allows projects below 25 kW solar capacity to obtain the highest base compensation rates between 0.21 cents and 0.31 cents per kWh for 10 years. The program expires in a decreasing block process. The rates depend on the three participating utilities – Eversource, National Grid and Unitil.|
|State tax exemptions||Massachusetts offers property tax and 6.25% sales exemptions for residential solar systems. You won't pay taxes on the added home value from your solar panel purchase and installation, and you can claim these exemptions on your income tax return.|
Massachusetts solar panel companies
The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that more than 400 solar companies are operating in Massachusetts. Narrowing down the options can be daunting. Here's a list of prominent solar panel companies worth considering.
ACE Solar is a top solar installer in New England. Solar Power World ranked ACE Solar No. 1 local solar installer in 2020 and 2021. As a family and veteran-owned engineering, procurement and construction company, ACE Solar provides a full-service solar service from design to maintenance of solar panels. You can choose solar financing, leasing or a PPA to go solar.
Solar Power World, a leading solar energy publication, ranked Boston Solar as a top solar contractor in Massachusetts for five consecutive years. Since 2011, the company has installed over 30 megawatts of residential solar energy in the Bay State. Boston Solar handles the entire solar installation process in-house and offers a 10-year quality-of-work and 25-year product warranties. Solar financing is available through the company's partnership with Sungage Financial.
Great Sky Solar
Great Sky Solar is an employee-owned solar cooperative based in the greater Boston area. The company handles the entire customer lifecycle, including design, permitting, installation, interconnection and maintenance, and offers customers solar financing and leasing options. While the company provides a quality-of-work warranty, it doesn't mention its length nor that of its performance and product warranties.
Momentum Solar is one of the leading solar installers in the country. It services 11 states, including Massachusetts. Employing over 1,000 staff, the company provides in-house services like solar system design, permitting, installation, interconnection and inspection of solar systems. It offers financing, lease and PPA options. Momentum Solar promises a 25-year quality-of-work and product warranties.
SunPower has been one of the leading solar manufacturers since the 1980s. With an average 22% efficiency rating, SunPower Maxeon boasts some of the highest-efficiency levels of all solar panels on the market. SunPower has a vast network of certified installers in the US, helping customers with solar system design, permitting, installation, maintenance, system monitoring and other services. SunPower provides a 25-year performance, product and quality of work warranties. You can get solar financing or enter solar leasing and PPA through SunPower. The company's new in-house financing institution SunPower Financial provides solar loans for underserved communities.
Installation factors to consider
Investing in a solar system is a serious financial commitment. It's worth considering various factors that may or may not make solar panels suitable for your home.
- Condition and tilt of your roof: According to the Department of Energy, solar panels operate most efficiently with an angle between 15 and 40 degrees. Because your roof's pitch will affect your solar panels' productivity, it's crucial to determine if your roof has the right angle and whether panels can be positioned to get the maximum output. Your roof should also be in good shape before attaching solar panels. Typically, replacing an older roof before installing solar panels is recommended to reduce the risk of further damage to the roof and potentially higher costs of its replacement after putting up a solar system.
- Insurance coverage: It's worth including your solar system in your homeowner's insurance policy. Check with your insurance company for details of your policy and coverage of your solar system.
- Location: There is a misconception that solar panels stop working in the winter. As a northern state, Massachusetts gets a lot of snow in the winter. Output from solar panels in the winter is lower relative to the summer because of shorter days. But solar panels generate electricity if the sunlight covers solar panels. Solar panels reach high efficiency during wintertime since their ideal internal temperature ranges between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Solar panels seamlessly generate power as soon as snow slides off or is removed.
- Cost vs. time: It's worth considering how long you plan to live in your home before you sign a solar loan, lease or PPA. Solar is a long-term investment. If you move in a few years, committing to an expensive solar package may not be worth it. The typical payback period for solar ranges from six to nine years.
- HOA and neighborhood rules: Massachusetts's solar easement and rights laws ban homeowners' associations from creating unreasonable restrictions on solar access. The state allows for the establishment of voluntary easements and solar access contracts, but it doesn't consider solar access an automatic right.
Massachusetts solar power FAQs
Will solar panels generate power in the winter in northern states?
Solar panels generate electricity as long as they are exposed to sunlight. They generate power in sub-freezing temperatures, even in places like Antarctica. Solar panels work more efficiently in cold weather since their maximum efficiency is between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The level of efficiency that falls with rising temperatures depends on the type of solar panels you will use. Some solar panels are more efficient than others.
Do I pay any electric bills after I get solar panels?
Yes, unless you go off-grid and rely on solar batteries to power your home when sunlight isn't available. In most cases, homes with solar panels will stay connected to the power grid to use it as a backup power source when the sun sets. Your electric bill will reflect what you owe for the energy you use from the grid, which will be lower than if you didn't have solar panels.
How can I find a solar installer in Massachusetts?
Picking the right installer from hundreds of solar companies in Massachusetts can be overwhelming. As a rule of thumb, go over customer testimonials and reviews, get at least four or five quotes from different companies, check for installer licenses and pick one that best matches what you're looking for. You can also read through CNET's selection of the top solar companies.