In increasing numbers, families in the SouthCoast are choosing solar. New England has the highest electricity rates in the country and the expectation of continued future price increases is driving families, young and old, towards solar as a good investment. According to Kevin Clark of RGS Energy, the different financial arrangements available (power purchase agreement for a leased system, loan to own, and outright purchases) make solar especially attractive to those wanting to save money and provide environmental benefits. “The ideal solar customer pays over $50 a month in electric bills and has 300 square feet of roof or cleared ground space with a southerly exposure that receives 4-6 hours of un-shaded sunlight,” Clark said.
The Dartmouth Solar Challenge, which will continue through July 31, offers residents a special tiered rebate that increases as more eligible homes choose to go solar. When you combine the available incentives, solar PV becomes a boon for families of all sizes. Can Dartmouth residents save money by switching to solar? Kiley Medeiros of Dartmouth is one resident who can speak firsthand about this: Medeiros and her family first learned about solar more than a year ago. “We sat on the information and talked it over with a friend who had gone solar. We knew we had a south facing roof, and when RGS Energy ran the numbers we knew we would reach the return on our investment in a couple of years,” said Medeiross. ”It’s a beautiful installation.” Meagan Monteiro, also from Dartmouth, said she first heard about solar at the Dartmouth YMCA and that it’s a great fit for her young family. “It was a logical step. We recycle, we drive a fuel efficient car, and our roof gets sun 95% of the day,” she said. “We had a no-cost home energy assessment, and the auditor suggested solar. We’ve had our solar PV for over a year now and we have a large credit balance with NSTAR.”
While the price of solar panels has dropped in recent years, the price of electricity continues to climb. High electricity users will find it cheaper to finance a PV system than to continue paying the utility as electric rates rise faster than the rate of inflation. The payback period is usually under 7 years, with substantial annual savings for avoided utility bills. “There can be a total net 10-year return of $11,000,” said Artie Leonard of RGS Energy, the chosen installer for the Dartmouth Solar Challenge. “It’s an investment that pays dividends. Solar PV panels are a low-maintenance, time-tested technology that are warrantied for 25 years and can last a lot longer. It’s a product that gives positive cash flow and that pays for itself in more ways than one.”