Top Cities for Solar Energy in Massachusetts (2021)
With the adoption of solar panels, homeowners have the opportunity to derive clean energy directly from the sun. When a homeowner decides to install solar panels on their home, they make the decision to combat greenhouse gas emissions, reduce their carbon footprint and minimize humanity's collective dependence on traditional forms of energy. Moreover, they stand to benefit by saving money through lowered utility bills. Solar energy has been embraced by homeowners across the U.S., and this is especially true in Massachusetts.
According to a recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, Massachusetts ranks eighth in the nation for solar panel installation, with the state generating 18.49% of its total electricity from solar. The state's total investment in solar is $9.1 billion, and it is anticipated that this number is only going to grow in the next few years as more homeowners realize the astounding benefits presented by solar energy. With that thought in mind, you may be wondering: What are the top cities for solar in Massachusetts?
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Massachusetts
Our team has engaged in extensive research to determine the top 10 cities for solar in Massachusetts. We examined varied studies, maps and data compiled by the Energy Information Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Environment America. This work has allowed us to determine the cities in Massachusetts that are the state's solar leaders.
- New Bedford
Boston is ranked first in Massachusetts and 20th in the nation for total installed solar PV capacity, according to Environment America's latest Shining Cities report. The city boasts over 340 MW in rooftop solar potential on small buildings and 55.51 MW per person of currently installed solar PV. It is estimated that a Bostonian who installs rooftop solar panels stands to realize $30,000 in savings on their electricity over the course of 20 years.
Lowell comes in second in the state. The city actively encourages its residents, businesses and institutions to adopt solar energy and aggressively seeks to educate stakeholders in Lowell about how solar can positively impact the community and increase the standard of living. Plus, Lowell has allowed for solar to be permitted anywhere and made extensive changes in zoning.
Home of some of the world's leading academic institutions, think tanks and the like, there is little surprise that Cambridge checks in at No. 3 on our list of top cities for solar in Massachusetts. The city engages in climate-change planning and has myriad energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs, consistently seeking to help residents and small businesses reduce energy consumption while investing in renewable energy technology. The city is committed to achieving net-zero building emissions by 2050.
Located on the Merrimack River, Lawrence has a population of about 80,000 and has been known as an industrial center since the 19th century. However, the city has gone through a substantial shift in recent years, seeking to transition from old forms of energy to innovative renewables. Lawrence has transitioned some of its major departments and schools to solar and aggressively promotes state tax incentive programs and rebates to area residents.
Another city committed to enabling a greener future for its residents, Worcester recently converted an area landfill into a solar farm that covers 52 acres of land. It is recognized as the largest solar array in New England with the ability to produce enough energy to power over 1,300 homes annually.
Here is a city that has embraced solar since 2004, when it built the first fully registered photovoltaic solar energy system. Since then, the city has continued to promote the adoption of solar energy, which has resulted in the installation of solar panels on hundreds of area homes as well as businesses. Framingham is a city that is truly dedicated to realizing a green future.
Another top city for solar in Massachusetts, Salem encourages education on solar as well as other forms of renewable energy. In 2016, the city resolved to implement 100% renewable energy by 2050 and is actively driving to achieve that goal, partly through the installation of solar PV systems.
8. New Bedford
The average homeowner in New Bedford can reap $31,000 in savings over the course of 20 years if they implement solar, so there is little wonder as to why this city is in the top 10 in Massachusetts. In fact, it has been recognized as a leading renewable community according to Environment Massachusetts and is also another municipality that is working toward achieving 100% clean energy adoption.
Home to a number of solar energy equipment companies and suppliers, Springfield is one of multiple communities across Massachusetts that hosts a solar plant that is owned and operated by Eversource. In Springfield, solar is easy to access and it's affordable, which only encourages residents to transition to this type of energy.
Falmouth is our final top city for solar in Massachusetts. It has robust renewable energy programs, and its residents are focused on making their Cape Cod community one of the leaders for renewables not only in the state, but also in the country. Additionally, Falmouth has an energy-saving program to help families in need make the switch to solar.
Where Does Solar Make the Most Sense?
It is true that solar panels tend to work best in places where there is abundant sunshine year-round, which could cast some doubt on the effectiveness of solar in Massachusetts, a state known for its long winters. However, this is a misconception, as Massachusetts is an excellent location for solar systems.
Firstly, solar panels work well in cold, winter weather and actually tend to be more efficient in colder temperatures. This, then, makes natural sense in Massachusetts. Additionally, solar is a wise choice in this state because the cost of electricity is high.
Average Massachusetts Electricity Costs
Based on a report compiled by EIA, the average monthly electric bill for a Massachusetts home is $125.89, with average monthly consumption clocking in at 574 kWh. Even though Massachusetts is the most populous state in the New England region, the state isn't the biggest spender when it comes to a monthly electric bill. In fact, Massachusetts trails just behind Connecticut in the No. 2 spot. However, the average price in cents per kWh is 21.92, making Massachusetts the costliest overall.
In places with high energy costs, homeowners can save even more money and recoup their initial investments faster. On the other hand, if electrical costs are low or moderate, an investment in solar energy isn't as significant.
Massachusetts Solar Tax Incentives
Another important thing to consider when contemplating solar in Massachusetts is the state's tax incentives. Massachusetts homeowners can take advantage of the following programs when they adopt solar energy:
|Massachusetts Personal Income Tax Credit||Homeowners can receive a credit equaling $1,000 or 15% of project costs that qualify — whichever is less.|
|Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program||This incentive is paid to residential solar system owners on behalf of Massachusetts-based investor-owned electric utilities. Participants will receive incentive payments via check or electronic payment on a monthly basis and can be enrolled in the program for 10 years.|
||This is a group solar buying program that offers discounts to residents who are located in participating communities.|
|Municipal Light Plant Solar Rebate Program||This program offers a rebate for solar photovoltaic system installation of 25 kW or less. It is available in certain Municipal Light Plant service territories.|
Massachusetts also has a statewide net metering program, which enables customers to receive credits on their utility bill for excess solar power generation in any month. Utility credits can be cashed in for electricity when your system is not generating power, such as at night. Net metering credit values depend on varied factors, including the size of your system. Residents are encouraged to learn more in order to find out if they qualify.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
Residents of Massachusetts can combine the above incentives with the federal solar tax credit to save even more on the cost of solar panels. The federal investment tax credit (ITC) is one of the key incentives for solar energy adoption in the U.S. Currently, the ITC allows American homeowners to receive a tax credit equal to 26% of the total price of their system installation and materials.
Massachusetts Solar Regulations
In 2020, Massachusetts filed emergency regulations pertaining to its SMART program. New rules were established that changed the criteria for land use and project siting. The state is ultimately seeking to move away from using greenfield sites or ecologically valuable areas for solar, instead focusing on properties where development is already underway.
The regulations also doubled the size of the program related to new solar generating capacity. This will ensure land is used properly as solar expands within the property development industry and becomes more popular among landowners.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in Massachusetts
It's clear to see that Massachusetts is taking leaps toward becoming more renewable-friendly, which has earned it a position as one of the top states for solar energy in the U.S., but there's always room for improvement.
If your city didn't make our top list of the top cities for solar in Massachusetts, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile. These include:
- Contacting your elected officials to lobby for stricter renewable energy goals
- Installing a solar PV system on your own roof
- Educating your neighbors about the benefits of solar energy
By doing these things, you can impact the future of renewable energy in Massachusetts.