Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Next Phase of Solar Power Support
Commonwealth Solar II will tap federal stimulus funds for rebates to put more solar energy on Massachusetts roofs
"Commonwealth Solar has already played an important role in speeding the Bay State's transition to a clean energy economy," Governor Patrick said. "I commend the more than 1,200 homeowners, businesses, and municipalities who have taken advantage of this innovative program in the past two years, and encourage many more to partner with the Commonwealth as we continue along the path toward a cleaner future."
"Today, we kick off the next phase of Governor Patrick's game plan to make Massachusetts a national solar energy powerhouse," Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles said. "Since launching in early 2008, Commonwealth Solar has exceeded all expectations, putting solar power within the reach of more people and businesses than ever before, while quadrupling the number of solar energy companies in Massachusetts since January 2008."
Beginning in late January, the new programs - Commonwealth Solar II and Commonwealth Solar Stimulus - will begin accepting rebate applications from residents and businesses seeking help financing their solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The new rebate programs will be benefit from a two-pronged funding scheme. Funding for Commonwealth Solar II, providing rebates for small residential and commercial photovoltaic (PV) systems (5 kilowatts or less), will come from $1 million per quarter in existing funds from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust. Now, as part of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC), the Trust is financed through a small renewable energy charge on utility ratepayers' monthly bills.
"Building on the huge success of the first Commonwealth Solar program, we are pleased to offer this additional targeted assistance for investment in solar power in the Commonwealth," Trust Executive Director Carter Wall said. "Envisioned to finance installation of 22 MW of solar power over four years, Commonwealth Solar met its goal after just 21 months, with the initial $68 million ratepayer-funded rebate pool fully committed by October 2009."
As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's Massachusetts Recovery Plan to secure the state's economic future, the Commonwealth plans to tap $8 million in State Energy Program funding awarded to the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for Commonwealth Solar Stimulus, which will assist PV systems sized greater than 5 kilowatts (kW) up to 200 kW. At least two other states, Connecticut and Maryland, have launched solar rebate programs funded with federal stimulus revenue.
"The Clean Energy Center, through the Renewable Energy Trust, looks forward to putting this new pool of funding to work providing rebates for solar projects that will get us to Governor Patrick's goal of 250 MW of solar energy - enough to power at least 37,500 homes - by 2017," said Patrick Cloney, executive director of the Clean Energy Center.
To further support the financing of projects eligible for the rebate program - as well as those greater than 200 kW - the DOER is developing regulations for a new Solar Credit market under the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard. The Solar Credit initiative, authorized by the Green Communities Act of 2008, will be an important and sustainable part of building predictable market support for the solar industry in Massachusetts and is expected to begin in early January.
Investment in solar energy is a critical component of Governor Patrick's Massachusetts Recovery Plan. The Patrick-Murray Administration's emphasis on solar power has spurred the growth of a vibrant solar industry in Massachusetts - expanding the number of solar installation contractors and subcontractors from roughly 50 in January 2008 to nearly 200 today. A recent survey of 98 solar PV manufacturers, integrators and installers revealed that these companies doubled their Massachusetts employment - from 1,086 to 2,075 - from 2007 to 2008, and expected to add another 960 employees during 2009. Eighty percent of these firms added employees in 2008, and all but 11 planned to expand their workforce this year.
Massachusetts is in the midst of a nearly 15-fold increase in solar installations over Governor Patrick's first four-year term. In addition to solar PV projects assisted by Commonwealth Solar rebates, solar installations supported by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds on water treatment facilities and other public buildings will bring the state to more than 50 MW by the end of 2010, up from 3.5 MW when Governor Patrick took office.
Between January 2008 and December 2009, Commonwealth Solar awarded approximately 1,270 rebates for residential, commercial and municipal projects capable of generating 22.3 MW of electricity - enough to power nearly 3,200 homes in Massachusetts annually. An additional 28 rebate applications for projects worth 1.2 MW are in process, bringing the total solar generation supported by Commonwealth Solar's initial phase to 23.5 MW.
"These rebates will make homes and businesses more energy efficient and put money back in the taxpayers' pockets," said U.S. Senator John Kerry. "This federal-state partnership improves energy efficiency, creates jobs and stimulates our economy."
"Combating climate change is essential to the long term health of our Commonwealth," said U.S. Senator Paul G. Kirk, Jr. "This program will benefit our environment and the families and businesses of Massachusetts. Our citizens will save money in the short term with the rebate, and in the long term as they reduce their bills by using a renewable source of energy."
"I'm pleased to see federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds further help create jobs by incentivizing the Commonwealth's burgeoning renewable energy sector," said Congressman John F. Tierney. "These rebates will make our business climate more competitive, lower energy bills for families and communities, and reduce our carbon footprint."
"With this cutting edge program, Massachusetts is giving the rest of the country a sneak peak at the power of America's clean energy economy of the future," Congressman Edward Markey said. "I applaud Governor Patrick's forward-looking solar policies that are putting Recovery Act dollars to work, creating jobs today and laying the groundwork for a strong clean energy industry for tomorrow and beyond."