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Solar Plus: Building a market for complementary technologies to work together

by Elizabeth Youngblood

BE Boston 21 RegistrantsBusiness MemberMember
Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Massachusetts homeowners consider renewable energy options, solar electricity often takes center stage. Good sun access, high electricity prices, state and federal incentives, standardized installation practices and minimal maintenance have helped to drive up the number of residential solar electric systems installed in Massachusetts from a couple hundred in 2006 to over sixty thousand today.

During this time, many solar installers have shied away from offering multiple renewable energy technologies to residents, in part because it can add complexity to a sale. However, there are several compelling reasons to consider pairing solar with complementary technologies that can add value for both residents and installers.

Below are three reasons for homeowners and installers to consider pairing renewable energy technologies:

Residential Heating and Cooling Is a Large Consumer Cost

Heating accounts for 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts, and at the residential level, costs the average homeowner $1,500 per year. Clean heating and cooling technologies can play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bringing down costs, and are especially cost effective for customers with electric resistance, propane or oil heating.

The Residential Solar Market Is Maturing

A recent Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) report found that in many states, including Massachusetts, the residential solar market is maturing and residents are showing signs of fatigue with traditional sales techniques. Moving forward, installers will need to find new and innovative ways to access new customers and increase sales.

Pairing Technologies Increases Eligible Customer Base

Some residents may not have a good site for solar. Some won’t have a large enough electric bill to justify solar. Others who are not sold on installing one technology may decide to proceed if combined technologies can offer increased savings. In all of these scenarios, offering additional technologies within a company or through partnerships with clean heating and cooling contractors can allow solar installers to diversify their offerings and gain access to additional customers.

What technologies pair well together?

Energy Efficiency Plus Solar

Financially, it pays to get a free energy audit and complete energy efficiency and conservation measures first before installing solar, including installing advanced insulation, high efficiency windows and appliances, among others. It is a relatively low cost way to see major savings, and can greatly reduce the size and cost of a future solar electric or clean heating system.

Solar Plus Electric Vehicles

By purchasing an electric vehicle, a resident is greening their transportation. At the same time, charging the car at home will increase the amount of electricity consumed. In addition to receiving incentives for purchasing an electric vehicle, installing a solar electric system at aresidence means they can charge the car with green electricity and create additional cost savings. This seems to be a growing trend, as a recent study found that roughly half of residents who have a solar PV system or an electric vehicle have both technologies.

Solar Plus Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps produce heating and cooling in a single room (ductless mini-split) or whole house systems.Though they require electricity to operate, efficient ASHPs use 40-70% less electricity than traditional sources like electric-resistance heating, and can use electricity from a solar PV system to provide inexpensive heating and cooling for a home over the life of the system. Ground source heat pumps are even more efficient, though the up-front costis generally higher.

Solar Electric Plus Hot Water

If a home is a good candidate for a solar electric system, they are likely also a good candidate for solar hot water. If installers are already on the roof, there can be cost savings to install these technologies at the same time. Residents can receive an additional $500 rebate incentive from MassCEC if both solar PV and hot water are co-located on site.

Although there are different technology constraints to consider, there are also clear environmental and financial benefits to pairing complementary technologies. To support technology adoption efforts, MassCEC is piloting a new program called Solarize Mass Plus, which will expand MassCEC’s successful solar education and outreach initiative to include complementary technologies. This initiative, coupled with state and utility rebate programs, will help raise awareness and reduce the costs of these complementary heating and cooling technologies. As the solar market matures, pairing complementary technologies offers new opportunities for installers to increase sales by giving homeowners options to save money and reduce their environmental footprint.

To learn more about different technologies and associated incentives, go to www.masscec.com.

Our Mission

NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.

Elizabeth Youngblood is a Senior Project Manager at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), which is dedicated to accelerating the success of clean energy technologies, companies and projects —while creating high-quality jobs and long-term economic growth in Massachusetts. Elizabeth is responsible for driving solar education and adoption programs at MassCEC, including Solarize Massachusetts and Mass Solar Connect, and has been advancing solar PV projects for public, commercial, and residential customers since 2009. Elizabeth holds a B.A. in International Relations from Mount...

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