Many Massachusetts homeowners have experienced aggressive cold-calls from solar installers, or worse yet, automated robo-calls.
Now, thanks to a new online tool, you can hang up, block that number, and comparison shop in peace for residential or small business solar arrays.
The non-profit Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center teamed up with web developers at SolarSage to launch the platform in the Bay State. The U.S. Department of Energy also provided financial support to the project.
With a zip code and address, the bid platform solicits quotes from pre-vetted installers. A consumer can then compare upfront project costs, estimated electricity cost savings over 20 years, the expected payback period, and more. Quality of materials, parts and labor guarantees, and monthly loan payments can be displayed.
Best of all, the consumer controls the communication.
EnergySage senior marketing manager Kerry Thoubboron said solar shopping can be confusing, and the company wanted to create a simple way for people to understand and evaluate all the moving parts.
Solar installers pay to participate, and the no-pressure service is free to consumers.
She said that at first, some installers were reluctant to join, because membership requires bid transparency. However, they soon saw the advantage, because the platform is becoming popular. So far, over 4,900 homeowners in Massachusetts have used the tool to comparison shop.
Consumers considering solar are faced with a tangle of questions.
Is it smarter to lease equipment, or own it? How should the panels be sized? Do federal and state tax credits apply? Will my home array generate SRECs, or solar renewable energy credits? And how does net metering work?
Thoubboron said the platform helps clarify upfront decision-making, and allows for informed comparison shopping. “We always recommend that people get multiple quotes,” she said.
Around 450 solar installers participate in the marketplace nationwide, and many of them operate in Massachusetts, where the economics of solar ownership are due to change at the end of 2017.
The Solar Renewable Energy Credit program, is being phased out. Those with existing systems will be grandfathered, and still able to sell the SRECS. The commodity program will be replaced with a less-generous, flat-fee tariff.
The switch was prompted by a solar energy bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed in April 2016, directing the state’s energy department to revamp its solar incentive program. Utilities had said the old program was too generous to solar developers and shifted costs to non-solar ratepayers.
Yet boosters remain bullish on solar energy, which now provides nearly 6 percent of the state’s electricity. The upfront cost of installing solar has plummeted in recent years, and more than a quarter-million homes in the Bay State generate their own electricity.
5 August 2017 2:03 pm
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