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New Solar Technology - Honeycombs in Windows

 

solar window 2Solar Windows are nearly here!

Most localities now require double pane windows for energy efficient. In between the panes of the window is a gas usually argon that helps cut down on heat transfer. 

An Israeli, SolarOr, has created a substance that instead of simply helping conserve energy actually generates energy. This innovation was on display the Intersolar event in San Fransisco last month. 

SolarOr sandwiches the faceted solar cells between the two pane of glass of their windows. These layers of "honeycombs" inside the glass allows the tiny solar cells to be facing upwards towards the sun. 

One would expect that these tiny cells might be inefficient compared to regular solar panels. But in fact, they produce 155 watts per square meter compared to 220 watts for most mass market solar panels. The obvious advantage of SolarOr's products is that the solar panels are completely integrated into the window structure of the building. 

Honeycomb ceilingNormally Building Integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) must be added on top of a roof. These solar windows don't require roof square footage and generate energy on top of conserving it. SolarOr's glass cuts heat transfer and allows 40% of light transfer thereby meeting governmental requirement of energy efficiency.

The Solar Window has the potential to really push us towards a true "Zero Carbon Building." SolarOr's cutting edge window technology is multifunctional: besides being a source of electricity, it offers tangible benefits, such as radiation management, weather protection, thermal insulation, and noise protection.

Characteristics of SolarOr's BIPV Module

  • Optimal design for vertical installation offers the best sun harvesting performance.

  • Translucent technology permits light transmission and provides noise insulation.

  • Total internal reflection technology enables back reflection (towards the sun) of excessive sun energy.

  • Solar WindowImproved thermal insulation.

  • Best price performance in the industry.

Basic Solar Module Element:

Front Plane – Low Iron Glass.
Interlayer – LCPV with Solar Cells.
Rear Plane – Float Glass (Thickness according to static load requirements).

Check back on the Boston Solar Energy blog for more cutting edge innovations in the solar sphere. 

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Federal Tax Credit for Massachusetts Solar Energy

 

Solar BreakevenUse of solar power has exploded in Massachusetts and all across North America in the last several years. Whether you want to "go green", get off the grid, or simply lower your energy bills, utilizing solar energy is a big step in the right direction.

Through the end of the year 2016, qualifying solar energy systems are eligible for a federal tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of the system (section 25D of the Internal Revenue Code). Unlike most efficiency upgrades, there is no upper limit on tax credits for certain solar energy systems. Combined with state incentive programs and manufacturer rebates, converting to solar has never been more appealing to Massachusetts residents.

The two solar energy systems eligible for the federal tax credit are:

solar hot water heaterSolar water heaters

Available in a diversity of sizes and designs, all models rely on thermal energy from the sun to at least partially heat your home's water. Most also have a back-up heating method for those not-so-sunny days known to occur in Massachusetts. Qualifications for a solar water heater follow:

  • Must be installed and functional

  • Must comply with local safety and building codes

  • Units for use with swimming pools or hot tubs are not eligible

  • Cost of installation counts towards tax credits

  • A minimum of 50 percent of the water heater's energy must come from the sun


Any Energy Star qualified solar water heater is eligible for the federal tax credit, a convenient way to narrow down your search without worrying about calculating what percent of its power comes from solar energy.

Solar Panels on brick houseSolar panels

- Also called solar modules or photovoltaic systems, solar panels convert the sun's energy into electricity and can be used to partially or wholly power your home. The requirements for solar panels to be eligible are even simpler:

  • Must be installed and functional

  • Must comply with local safety and building codes


Both systems share some qualifications:

  • May be installed in your principal or secondary residence, or both

  • May be installed in either new construction or an existing home

  • Home must be within the United States

  • Cooperative apartment buildings and condominiums are eligible

  • Rental properties are not eligible


Determining if the equipment itself qualifies for the federal tax credit is surprisingly easy--the manufacturer will provide a Manufacturer's Certification Statement, either on their website or by contacting the company. You can view a sample here. As the name implies, the certification statement guarantees the product's eligibility. You'll want to acquire a copy of the certification for your records, though it is not required to be submitted when filing for your tax credit.

Along with the Manufacturer's Certification Statement you'll want to hang on to any sales and installation receipts, as you would any other tax-related records. To claim your federal tax credit you'll need to fill out the IRS form 5695, Residential Energy Credits, when you file your 2011 taxes. The 2011 version of form 5695 is not available on the IRS website as of this writing, but you can view the 2010 version to get an idea of what information will be required.

A tax accountant can verify eligibility through every step of the process if you're not comfortable doing so yourself. Ultimately you should be prepared, if needed, to demonstrate:

  • Total cost of the system (including labor)

  • Date the system was installed

  • System-specific requirements are met (discussed above)


Tax credits are also available for commercial properties, with requirements essentially the same, but corporate taxpayers must use the Investment Credit IRS Form 3468. Again the 2011 version is not available as of this writing but the 2010 version can be viewed here.

More information about federal tax credits, solar energy and other eligible upgrades can be found on the Energy Star website and the Department of Energy website

Massachusetts Commonwealth Solar II Rebates

 

Solar CalculationsThe Commonwealth Solar II Rebates Program was launched in 2010 to provide rebates for residential, commercial and industrial properties along with public and institutional facilities that install photovoltaic solar energy systems. The Commonwealth Solar II Rebates Program is the next step in the Commonwealth Solar Program launched in 2008 as part of the Green Communities Act.

The Green Communities Act was one of the state’s first landmark pieces of legislation dealing with the need to increase energy production by renewable means. At its core the Green Communities Act had three key mandates:

  • Lower Energy Costs

  • Promote Renewable Energy

  • Make State and Municipal Power Production Greener

 The Commonwealth Solar Program

The Commonwealth Solar Rebates Program was instituted by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to provide rebates to residential, commercial and public properties for the installation of grid-tied photovoltaic systems through the end of 2012. Designed to promote the installation of new photovoltaic systems the program was funded to the amount $68 million by combining $40 million from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Renewable Energy Trust Fund and $28 million from the Massachusetts Department of Energy’s Renewable Portfolio Standard program, The Renewable Portfolio Standard  program collects alternative compliance payments.

With applications arriving at a faster rate than had been anticipated, the program soon had totaled up more than 27 megawatts (MWt) of photovoltaic projects. Reaching its goals two years ahead off schedule, the program has benefitted more than 1,200 customers.

Given the high demand for the program, the Commonwealth Solar Rebates Program ran out of funding and needed to be rejuvenated to meet the growing list of applicants and in 2010 the Commonwealth Solar II Rebates Program was launched to continue the success.

Currently, the program is sitting on available funds of $330 million through a combination of federal funding along with Commonwealth Solar II Rebates Program funds of $160 million.

Massachusetts Clean Energy CenterCommonwealth Solar II Rebates Program participation is obtained through an application process that involves several steps be taken by the customer or by the installer.

Qualifying for the program

A prospective applicant must first determine if they or their company or organization are eligible to participate. To be eligible a residential or commercial customers who pay into the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Renewable Energy Trust Fund, this includes customers of municipal lighting plants and investor owned electric utilities.

Next, the applicant must determine the compatibility of their home or building to being outfitted with the photovoltaic system. Homes and businesses without adequate solar exposure will not generate the optimum return rate on investment and should be considered closely.

BreakEven PointOnce the applicant has determined their eligibility and property compatibility, they need to determine their estimated rebate. As the rebate is not intended to, and will not, pay for the complete cost of the system installation, the applicant should compare the cost of the system to the estimated rebate. Currently the maximum incentive for residential customers is $8,500 and $4,250 for commercial customers per individual property or host.

Finally, the applicant should contact a professional installer/integrator. These professionals can assist the applicant in choosing the proper system for there property and energy needs. Their expertise can be quite valuable in determining the rebate estimate and after the system is installed, they will provide a turnkey service contract. Applicants are encouraged to research professionals and choose the one that they are most comfortable with. Professional installers are familiar with current safety code requirements as well as equipment and installation requirements.

The equipment purchased for the system must be new, UL listed and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) compliant. All components must come with manufacture warranties; five years on products, 20 years for system performance, 10 years for inverters, five years for mounting hardware and two years for revenue grade production meters. Additionally, an installers five year warranty on against low electrical output (under 15 percent), component breakdown and defective workmanship is required.

Application Process

Once the applicant and the installer have gathered all pertinent information, the installer will prepare the application; attach all support materials such as electric bills, proof of participation in the Renewable Energy Trust Fund   and project cost estimates. The application must be filled out completely with separate applications for additional project sites.

Both the applicant and the installer should maintain copies of all documents submitted and generated during the process for future reference.

Once the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center receives the application(s) and all required support documentation, the staff will review the packet for compliance to the requirements and accuracy, including original signatures.

Upon Approval

Solar HouseUpon staff approval of the application, the applicant will be sent a program packet that will include; a rebate award letter, a project completion form, a production tracking system information sheet and directions on how to submit a W-9 form (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification).

As soon as the award letter is received, the installer may begin construction.

Once installation or integration construction is completed, the installer will be responsible filing a project completion form and any support documents required and passing a post installation inspection. This must be completed in order for the designated rebate payee, identified during the application process, can receive payment.

Additional responsibilities of the system owner and their installer are to provide future cooperation with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for the purposes of public education. These may take the form of on site evaluation reports, project photos and installation records. This will aid Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in determining the benefits and future viability of the program.

Estimated Rebate

Commonwealth Solar II Rebates Program participants can expect to receive a base amount of $0.75 to $1.70 per Watt DC, but the amount varies based on structure and usage variants.

For more information on the Commonwealth Solar II Rebates Program click here.

Solar Renewable Energy Certificates Massachusetts 2011

 

Solar MoneyWith energy prices rising every year, more people are turning to alternative sources of energy, such as solar power, for their homes to save money on their utility bills. The Massachusetts Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program gives homeowners another incentive to install solar generators on their property. By generating and selling SRECs, homeowners can earn hundreds or thousands of dollars each year. This article will explain how buying and selling SRECs work in Massachusetts and how homeowners can take advantage of this opportunity.

What is an SREC?

A Solar Renewable Energy Certificate is similar to a stock certificate for energy production. One SREC is earned from one megawatt-hour of renewable energy that has been generated by using Photovoltaic (solar) technology. Like stock certificates, SRECs are bought and sold on a market where prices vary. Many states have their own SREC programs, including Massachusetts, that allow state residents to install equipment to generate solar power and earn SRECs. These SRECs are then sold at auction.

Anyone in the state of Massachusetts with a qualifying solar electric system can generate power and earn SRECs. In order to qualify to participate in the system, Massachusetts residents must register their systems and file monthly reports of how much solar energy was generated. The company who installs these systems can set this up in most cases, and the process of registering and participating in the program will be discussed in more detail later.

Typically, a home with a 6 kw capacity system will generate about 6 megawatt-hours per year, earning the homeowner 6 SRECs and anywhere between $1,800 and $3,600 with this program. This means a homeowner can make money just for producing solar electricity in his or her home.

Why would someone buy an SREC?

In Massachusetts and other states, laws and regulations state how much solar electricity must be produced under the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard by the local utility companies—the companies who sell regular power to homeowners in the state. These utility companies are required to produce a certain amount of SRECs per year by generating solar electricity.

If these utility companies don’t produce enough solar electricity themselves, they must either pay a fee or buy the SRECs earned by private individuals in the state to meet their solar production mandates. The fee for an unproduced Solar Renewable Energy Certificate in Massachusetts is currently $600, which happens to be almost three times the retail price of the electricity if it were sold to a consumer. The program to buy and sell SRECs allows utility companies to meet their mandates and private individuals to earn money by generating solar power.

How Much Are SRECs Worth?

Solar calculationsThe actual value of SRECs is determined much like the value of stock certificates are. Basically, the more SRECs utility companies need to purchase to meet production mandates, the more they are willing to pay for individual SRECs. In August 2010, the first Massachusetts-produced SRECs were valued at $500 each.

There are price ceiling and floor values placed on SRECs to encourage the program. The SREC ceiling value is $600, the amount of the fine levied on utilities who fail to meet solar standards. The price floor for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates in Massachusetts is $300, the value the DOER Solar Credit Clearinghouse places on unsold certificates when they go to auction.

At auction, the price for these certificates will fall somewhere within this range. Recently, certificates were sold for $515 each.

These prices mean that a resident property in Massachusetts producing 6 megawatt-hours per year will earn 6 SRECs and earn the owner of the system between $1,800 and $3,600 when sold, depending on the current price for SRECs. The amount of SRECs that need to be produced in the state will continue to increase every year, so SRECs will be a valuable commodity in high demand for several years to come.

How to Get Started Selling SRECs

To start earning and selling SRECs, a homeowner must first install the necessary qualifying solar power generating equipment in his or her home. SRECTrade works with several different companies that install solar equipment on an individual’s property. A good company will help a customer do the following to get started generating certificates:

 

  • Submit proper forms to the state of Massachusetts to certify a system.

  • Set up an account to tract certificates with the state.

  • Create an account with SRECTrade and manage the account, automating the program for the customer.

 

Solar InvoiceOnce these processes are established, all the customer/property owner has to do is wait for a check for sold certificates.

Only solar-electric facilities built and installed after January 1, 2008 qualify for this program, so if a homeowner’s equipment is older than that, new equipment must be installed to generate SRECs.

After a solar generator is installed, they must receive a statement of qualification from the DOER and must establish an account with NEPOOL GIS to earn SREC credits and participate in this program.

Another option for individuals able to generate electricity with solar technology is to sign up for the EasyREC system after having their system certified. This automates the sale of SRECs at auction. 

How soon does SRECs checks arrive?

It takes a few months to start receiving money for SRECs earned after the necessary equipment is installed. If a solar power generator starts earning SRECs during the month of January, the amount of SRECs earned is recorded on February 1st. The first SRECs would be credited and put up for sale after March 1st, thus allowing them to be sold during the March auction. The payment for the first SREC would be received sometime toward the end of March.

After March, monthly payments for Solar Renewable Energy Credit Massachusetts certificates earned would come through as SRECs were generated, meaning there would not be a three-month delay as there was from the time the system went online.

Once this system gets going, SRECs can be generated for 10 years after installation. This makes installing solar electric equipment a smart investment that pays off for years to come.

Generating SRECs and selling them on the market in Massachusetts is a fairly simple process that almost any property owner can participate in. Boston Solar takes care of this process for its customers. With the state increasing the number of solar certificates required for energy companies to produce yearly, installing a solar system is an investment that can reduce a monthly utility bill and pay cash to property owners. Anyone interested in learning more should contact Boston Solar at 617 858 1645 or use the contact form to the right. 

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Solar Rebates And Incentives - Get Paid to Go Green

 

Solar houseThere are many reasons to utilize Solar Energy to run your home. The benefits of a solar home installation far outweigh the initial costs. It is a fact that solar energy will save you money and is better for the environment than traditional forms of energy. In addition to naturally saving money month to month, there are various government federal and state incentives and rebates for using energy renewables and efficiency. 

For example, in the state of Massachusetts there is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Incentive, which is offering income-eligible residents and landlords an opportunity to increase the energy efficiency of their homes and residences. Up to $2,600 in improvements can be made at no cost to the resident. Incentives such as this vary from state to state.

There are also many Federal incentives, such as the Energy-Efficient Mortgages, which can be used to either finance energy efficiency improvements to existing homes, including renewable energy technologies, or to increase their home buying power with the purchase of a new energy efficient home.

   
There are many useful facts to note about solar electrical generation. The main household uses for solar irradiance are electricity production and water heating. For example, the sun energy can: heat swimming pools, power cars, power cooking appliances, and other appliances. 

But let's analyze how solar generation would help an average household...

In a normal household, electric ovens, microwaves, and central air conditioning consume most of the electricity. According to the US Department of Energy, in 1999 an average American household used approximately 866-kilowatt hours per month costing them $70.68.

Solar energy is measured in kilowatt-hour: 1 kilowatt = 1000 watts. A 1 kilowatt home solar system will generate approximately 1,600 kilowatt hours per year in a sunny climate (receiving 5.5 hours of sunshine per day) and approximately 750 kilowatt hours per year in a cloudy climate (receiving 2.5 hours of sunshine per day). Most states in the United States receive 4.2 hours to 6 hours of sun irradiance per day. Massachusetts receives 4.2 hours per day.

Solar energy is collected and stored/used in batteries or on the electrical grid, reflected, insulated, absorbed and transmitted. By utilizing the battery back up, a solar energy system can provide electricity 24x7, even on cloudy days and at night. It is important to note that a 1-kilowatt home solar system will prevent approximately 170 lbs. of coal from being burned, 300lbs of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere and 105 gallons of water from being consumed each month! 

Solar generationSolar Energy is the answer for preserving the environment and providing energy at very low cost. Shell Oil predicts that by 2040, 50% of the world's energy will come from renewable sources such as solar power. Consider that in one hour, more sunlight falls on the earth than the energy used by the earth's entire population in one year.

Currently, Americans make up about 5 percent of the world's population and consume about 26 percent of the world's energy. By utilizing solar energy, Americans can make great strides towards conserving the earth's natural energy sources such as coal, gas, and petroleum. Solar technology can revolutionize how people live, it is a viable solution for the 2 billion people in the world who are currently without electricity. In fact, many third world countries represent the fastest growing market for solar generation.  Utilizing Solar Energy is more than simply going green, it is a significant contribution towards the welfare of our future.

For more information on Federal and State Solar Rebates and Incentives, visit: www.dsireusa.org

For more details and facts about Solar Energy, visit: www.facts-about-solar-energy.com

 

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Massachusetts Municipal Solar Rebates for 2011

 
Clean Energy CenterMassachusetts Municipal Solar Rebates, or incentives, are broken down into three categories; Federal, State, and Utility. Of these three incentive programs, some will be eligible for all, while others may only be eligible for some of the programs mentioned here. Either way, it appears as if this could very well be one of the best times in the history of residential solar energy production to call a certified solar installer, Massachusetts.

Federal Incentives
The Federal Government is currently providing two incentive programs to residents of Massachusetts; Energy-Efficient Mortgages and a Residential Investment Tax Credit. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Energy-Efficient Mortgages “provide the borrower with special benefits when purchasing a home that is energy efficient, or can be made efficient through the installation of energy-saving improvements.” The special benefits mentioned above are realized in many ways, and can be taken advantage of by both the buyer and seller of a residence.
For the buyer, this means an easy way to maximize the debt-to-income ratio by making possible the inclusion of energy saving measures, such as the installation of solar panels, to be financed as part of the mortgage. With a lower debt-to-income ratio, consumers can qualify for a larger loan which pays for a more efficient home that is less expensive to heat and cool, which, in turn, can increase the potential resale value of the home. For the seller, an energy efficient home, especially one that helps generate its own electricity, has the potential of selling more quickly since the bigger loans of this program make your home more affordable to more people, which is an undeniable advantage in a competitive market.

The second Federal Incentive is in the form of a Residential Solar Investment Tax Credit. This tax credit allows the taxpayer to claim up to 30% of their qualified solar installation costs between now and December 31, 2016. This program enables the individual taxpayer to use the credit to balance out their Alternative Minimum Tax liability. Best of all, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), “excess credit generally may be carried forward to next tax year” and this excess credit can be carried forward until the end of the program in 2016.

Alternative EnergyState Incentives
  • The simplest and most straightforward incentive offered at the state level is a 100% exemption from state sales tax on any equipment related to the generation of solar electricity for a residence. In order to take advantage of this incentive, the consumer is required to complete form ST-12 at the time of purchase, and provide that to the solar installer.
  • The state of Massachusetts provides a 100% property tax exemption for the span of 20 years for solar energy systems used to generate electricity for one’s personal residence.
  • There is a 15% Massachusetts state income tax credit, with a maximum of $1,000 to be used against the total cost of a solar energy system. To qualify, this system must be new and in compliance with performance and safety standards and be operating for at least five years.
  • Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC). This is a tradable certificate that is issued each time a photovoltaic system generates 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. This SREC can then be sold at the Department of Energy Resources created Solar Credit Clearinghouse Auction where the price has been fixed at $300 per megawatt hour, less a 5% administrative fee. To qualify for SRECs, projects must be Massachusetts-based, grid-tied, and have a capacity under 2 megawatts.
  • Commonwealth Solar Rebates are for residents with grid-tied solar energy systems. To qualify for this rebate of up to $1.70 per watt of energy produced, you must be a customer of Western Massachusetts Electric, National Grid, NSTAR Electric, or Fitchburg Gas and Electric.

Utility Incentives
Of the few incentives offered by municipal and utility companies for photovoltaic systems, net metering stands to be the most popular. Though voluntary, if implemented, net metering enables customers to receive full retail value for the electricity produced by their solar electric system. Through this system, customer’s electric meter tracks both the electricity produced, as well as that which was consumed, billing the customer only for usage above and beyond that which was produced.

In addition to net metering, there's still a few area specific programs available that you should know about.
  • Chicopee - This rebate is $2.50 per watt, with a maximum of $5,000. This program is only available to residential customers.
  • Marblehead - This rebate is up to $1.70 per watt, with a maximum of $8,500. There is a 10kW cap on this rebate and is for residential customers only.
  • Concord - This rebate is a little different than the others. Instead of being calculated by wattage produced, it is based on a rate of $625 per kW of installed rated capacity and is capped at $3,125 for a 5kW photovoltaic system.
  • Taunton - This rebate comes from the Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant and is only open to its residential utility customers only. The rebate is $2 per watt, with a $5,000 maximum.
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