Massachusetts has emerged as an alternative energy leader by offering residents and businesses financial incentives to go solar.
When Mass. Governor Deval Patrick said in spring 2011 that his state would install 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017, the plan was considered ambitious at best and ridiculous at worst.
Undeterred, Patrick created Solarize Massachusetts, an incentive program to encourage the adoption of small-scale solar and empowered the Mass. Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to implement the program.
Early this month, the governor celebrated reaching the 250 megawatt mark – four years early – and laid down the even more ambitious target of installing 1,600 megawatts of solar power by 2020.
“When we set ambitious goals and invest in achieving them, Massachusetts wins,” said Governor Patrick. “The many businesses and homeowners who have taken advantage of cost effective renewable energy installations are helping to create both a safer and a more prosperous Commonwealth for the next generation.”
Massachusetts has ample reason to pursue alternative energy. The Commonwealth spends billions of dollars annually to import energy from places like South America, Canada, and the Middle East. In a press release, MassCEC said that carbon-based energy imports represent a “lost economic opportunity that Massachusetts stands poised to reclaim through investments in home-grown renewable energy programs like Solarize.”
Solarize Mass offers residents and businesses discounted pricing for solar and has been implemented in 21 communities across the state. More than seven hundred residents and business owners signed contracts to install solar electricity in 2012, and the state hopes to top last year’s figures in 2013.
Under Governor Patrick's leadership, the Bay State now ranks seventh in the nation for solar installations and second for driving down installation costs, which dropped by nearly 30 percent in 2012.
Mass. Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan congratulated Patrick, who this year was named "Green Governor of the Year" by Beautiful Earth Group, for outpacing the state's solar targets.
“This exciting announcement is a direct result of Governor Patrick’s leadership in the clean energy revolution,” said Sullivan. “The initiatives and incentives we have established in Massachusetts are saving residents money, creating jobs, and protecting our environment.”
Last month, Sullivan announced that 10 communities will participate in the first round of the 2013 Solarize Mass program. Those communities are Bourne, Brookline, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Lee, Medford, Medway, Newton, Northampton and Williamstown, with Carlisle and Chelmsford participating as a group.
MassCEC and DOER have already contracted with Real Goods Solar, Inc., a residential-, commercial-, and utility-scale solar energy installer, to implement the Solarize Mass program in Northampton, Lee, and Williamstown.
Kam Mofid, chief executive of the Louisville, Colo.-based solar company, said he expects “strong participation with Solarize Mass, particularly in... Northampton and Williamstown, and in the town of Lee."
Authorities in Williamstown and Lee have already received inquiries from dozens of property owners about participating in the state-sponsored program.
"I already have 15 people who gave me their contact information to give to the contractor," Roger Scheurer, Lee's Solarize Mass coordinator, told the Berkshire Eagle.
The Solarize Mass programs will run through the summer, and commercial and residential property owners will have until September 30, 2013 to signup and lock in their savings.
“This new round of Solarize Mass continues to build on the clean energy leadership we’ve seen over and over again at the community level,” said DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “When neighbors encourage neighbors, it creates local excitement and greater participation.”
Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, TriplePundit, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens