New England has been one of the most receptive regions in the US to renewable energy, and continues to adopt a number of different alternative energy sources.
The State of the Solar Energy Market in New England
Craig Huntley | Solect Energy
How would you describe the state of the solar energy market in New England? In Massachusetts?
Solar energy has experienced significant growth in New England over the past five years and still continues to do so. The primary reason for this growth is that there are attractive state and federal solar incentives and policies. Additionally, more and more companies as a whole are turning toward more renewable/sustainable energy practices. Massachusetts in particular has seen tremendous growth in the solar market; just last year, the state was named the second largest solar energy job provider in the country—right behind California—and ranked sixth in solar capacity installed. To put it in perspective, there are roughly 1,744 megawatts (MW) of solar installed in New England and more than half of that capacity (1,241 MW) is in Massachusetts. Generally, the New England region is a leader in renewable energy, and solar remains one of the biggest renewable energy investments.
However, like other parts of the country, Massachusetts continues to experience volatility in the market due to ever-changing solar policies and incentive programs. The lack of long-term solar programs has a significant effect on the adoption rate of solar across different market sectors and we’ve seen it impact solar employment as well.
What types of services does Solect offer? How does it distinguish itself from other solar companies in the area?
As a full-service solar solutions provider, Solect offers feasibility assessments and development services, financial and incentive modeling, financing options, regulatory expertise, design and engineering, installation, and on-going system management and maintenance. One way we are able to distinguish ourselves from other solar companies is through our expert deployment of financing solutions that are tailored to each specific customer’s needs. No matter the customer’s financial situation, Solect makes it easy and appealing to go solar by offering a variety of different financing options. Included in these options are direct ownership of solar arrays, capital or operating leases, power-purchase agreements and even direct property rental.
How has Solect been able to succeed in the New England solar market?
Solect owns and operates numerous solar PV systems, and unlike some of our competitors, we understand firsthand what it is like to develop, finance, install and operate a portfolio of different types of arrays. Solect also delivers on the critical elements that make up a prosperous solar company: full development and design services, a robust suite of financing solutions, complete installation capabilities and a comprehensive services and maintenance program that ensures our customers’ systems are producing at optimal levels.
Recently, we expanded our services business to include operations and maintenance services for commercial-scale installations in the New England area, of any size. In addition to ensuring arrays are fully optimized through 24/7 system monitoring and preventative maintenance, our services business includes net metering support and SREC management. The services business has already seen tremendous success, as the number of facilities we manage will exceed 50 by the end of this year.
Most importantly, we work closely with our clients to develop lasting relationships, making sure to provide the best possible customer experience. At Solect, we believe the relationship with our customers starts before the construction of the array and extends beyond the initial 25 years of operation. We encourage a collaborative approach, and we are always there to support our customers before, during and after the installation process.
Recently, Massachusetts underwent changes in its solar incentive program. Do you foresee any market affects and, if so, what?
The proposed new program is currently in the comment period; however, it is fair to infer there will be changes for new installations going forward. Program details are still being worked out—however, for those who have an existing operating array, the proposed new solar incentive program will have no bearing on their SRECs or their value. Alternatively, if a business is already in the process of installing solar or considering an installation, and will have 50% of its project costs disbursed by January 8th (with construction completed by May 8th) the project is eligible under the extended SREC-II program. So, while these programs are still in place, we see the solar market continuing to grow. Nevertheless, we are keeping a watchful eye on the potential that, when the SREC-II extension deadline is hit in May 2017, the new incentive program may not be as attractive as the existing program. Significant economic changes could potentially decrease the financial incentive to invest in solar and therefore have a negative impact on market growth.
What do you think the state of solar in New England will look like within the next few years?
Despite Massachusetts’ proposed new incentive program, we expect continued growth in the New England solar market down the line. New England has been one of the most receptive regions in the US to renewable energy, and continues to adopt a number of different alternative energy sources. Forty percent of New England’s energy is made up of wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear power, and the region continues to reduce its consumption of coal. New England is dedicated to clean energy, including solar, and with appropriate leadership, will likely continue to grow the portfolio of alternative energy sources.
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