A reader contacted me recently and asked if the photovoltiac market was growing in MA. The answer seemed obvious. But I wanted to due my due diligence before I answered and was surprised at what I found.
I looked at the number and size of monthly solar installations in the state using the Commonwealth Solar II Rebate, broken out by commercial and residential installations. The number of installations fluctuate drastically from one month to the next so I created a 12-month rolling average of installs per month.
I also excluded any installations from the Solarize Massachusetts program. This program is another incentive program in the state whereby installers bid to offer a reduced installation rate to an entire town. Not only does it offer reduced pricing, it comes with a significant community outreach, marketing and education program to drum up interest in solar. The first year of the program was 2011 and installations were offered to 4 towns. However, in 2012 the program was offered to 17 communities and resulted in almost 3 times as many kilowatts of new installations. I felt this program artificially inflated demand for solar panels and thus excluded it from my analysis.
As can be seen in the below graph, the rolling average of installed kilowatts for residences peaked in June, 2012. Since then, the number of monthly installations has been trending downward.
Looking at the graph below of commercial installations, you can see the slope start flattening in June, 2012, and goes negative in December of 2012. Unlike the residential graph, which shows a decrease in installs for 6 months, there is only a one-month decline on the commercial side so I don’t feel as confident that this was not just a one-month anomaly. Time will tell.
As can be seen in these graphs, certainly the residential solar market has already peaked. And it looks like the commercial market may be heading the same way. With solar incentives decreasing due to the SREC oversupply, I do not see this trend reversing itself.
However, as the Solarize Massachusetts program demonstrated, with plenty of education and some reduced installation costs, the adoption of solar increased significantly. The program accounted for more than 12% of all residential installations in each year, despite the limited number of towns participating compared to the 351 total cities and towns in the state.
So I do see hope for the future of solar in Massachusetts. But the answer lies in educating Massachusetts residents about both the economic and environmental benefits of solar and offering them a discount. Luckily, I have a website that does just that.