What Rebates, Tax Credits, and Incentives Are Available for Solar Energy Systems?
Last updated in April 2016
Below are the tax credits and other incentives we could identify at the time of publication. Check www.dsireusa.org for an up-to-date list. Note that if you lease rather than buy a system, incentives usually go to the leasing company, not you.
Federal tax credit: Uncle Sam will let you deduct 30 percent of what you paid for panels, equipment, installation, and permits from your tax bill. The current credit is in place through 2019; in 2020, the credit declines to 26 percent; then 22 percent in 2021; from 2022 on, it stabilizes at 10 percent. For more details on how to compute the credit, see the IRS's Q&A on Tax Credits for Sections 25C and 25D.
State tax credit: You can get back 15 percent of your cost for a system, up to $1,000. The cost of the system is calculated as the price minus the 30 percent federal tax credit.
Net metering: When your solar energy system produces electricity you don’t use, it’s pushed onto the grid, and your utility pays you for it in the form of a credit against the electricity you’ll buy when you need more power than your panels can produce. Keep in mind, however, that over the course of a year few solar energy systems in this area produce more total electricity than needed by their houses.
Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs): Utilities are currently paying about $285 per megawatt hour, with the value set to decline $12 per year over the next decade. Contracts for selling SRECs in Massachusetts run for a full decade. If your system generates about six SRECs each year, a typical number for an average-size system, you’ll be in line for more than $14,500 in direct payments over a 10-year period.
Rebates: Massachusetts once had a simple statewide rebate program that applied to every installation (which the city of Boston supplemented), but its funding ran out. Several smaller utilities have replaced the original, but they serve relatively few residences. Each is different, and customers must satisfy a series of requirements to qualify. At the time of this writing, Chicopee Electric Light, Concord Municipal Light Plant, Hudson Light and Power, Ipswich Municipal Light, Reading Municipal Light, and Taunton Municipal Lighting were offering rebates capped at $2,000 to $6,000, depending on the utility.
Property tax exemption: Any increase in your home’s value as a result of installing solar panels is exempt from property taxes.