SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

August 21, 2013

On the sunny side

Salem rep joins solar boom; panels to power whole house

(Continued)

There are an estimated 10,000 solar installations in the state, most of them residential and the majority coming in the past few years.

When the Green Communities Act passed in 2007, only 3 megawatts of the state’s energy was produced by solar power. Today, the total exceeds 300 megawatts.

While still minuscule by power standards — Salem Harbor Station, for example, had a capacity of 745 megawatts — it is enough to power about 300,000 homes.

The state is way ahead of its solar schedule.

It set a goal of 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017, and hit that mark in May — four years early. As a result, Gov. Deval Patrick has set a new goal of 1,600 megawatts by 2020.

“It is the fastest-growing energy resource in probably all of New England,” said Mike Judge of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

Numbers in Salem could jump even more. The city, along with Swampscott, has been selected to take part in a grant program, Solarize Mass, which could start as early as next month.

The rapid rise of solar power in this state is fueled by a combination of factors, including generous financial incentives and a drop in the cost of equipment, much of which comes from China.

The Keenans proudly boast that their solar panels were made in the United States.

Even though prices have dropped, solar panels aren’t for everyone. They are best suited for south-facing houses with little shade and long hours of sunshine. The initial financial output is not insignificant, requiring many people to take out loans or even refinance mortgages. And not everyone qualifies for credits and rebates.

But solar power is slowly taking hold as more families put panels up on the roofs. If nothing else, it gets the neighbors peering over fences.

“That’s part of what we’re trying to do,” Keenan said, “is start the discussion.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

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