Wayland, a Solar Leader. Solarize Success in Context
The final numbers are in for the 2012 edition of Solarize Massachusetts Program for small residential and commercial solar PV, which generate electricity from the sun's energy. Wayland, Sudbury and Lincoln together added 137 systems totaling 1281 kW. Wayland by itself added 74 systems, totaling 659.1 kW.
What does this mean?
First, some context. We live in a State that is a clean energy leader in the U.S., especially in the area of solar photovoltaic (PV). Between 2007 and 2012, solar electricity production in Massachusetts grew from less than 4 megawatts to more than 174 megawatts. This puts the Commonwealth well on its way to meeting the goal of installing 250 megawatts by 2017.
Over the last five months Wayland contributed to that growth. Solarize Massachusetts resulted in 802 new installations for a total of 5.1 megawatts in 17 Green Communities. Wayland signed the first contract and achieved the first installation. Wayland, Lincoln and Sudbury together were the first to reach Tier Five in record time at the beginning of August. It was the only group to surpass a megawatt.
Before Solarize came to town, Wayland was already somewhat of a solar leader. According to the report, Massachusetts' Solar Leaders by the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center (2012), Wayland produced 121 kW of solar electricity production with 30 installations placing it 32nd in the statewide ranking and 3rd among “MetroWest Solar Leaders”. We counted 2.31 installations per 1,000 residents, ranking sixth in communities with 10,000 to 50,000 residents, and third in the MetroWest region, indicating a high adoption rate.
However, in terms of capacity per capita - which measures how much the local solar production could contribute to each resident should all “imports” of electricity cease - Wayland did not make any of the leader boards. Compared to the small town of Sheffield, where each resident would get 0.636 kW (enough to power a 60 watt light bulb for ten hours), Wayland could provide only 0.009 kW per resident. This means that we had a high adoption rate but that the installations were on average too small (a little over 4 kW) to make an impression in terms of capacity.
With Solarize, Wayland more than tripled its amount of installations, propelling it to first place on the score board for number of installations per 1,000 residents in mid-size municipalities, statewide. Even better, because we added systems that were much larger (on average 8.9 kw) our town came a long way in addressing our relative capacity issue. Local electricity producers can now provide each Wayland resident with 0.0657 kW (enough to power a 60 watt light bulb for 1 hour). This puts our town in first place on the leader board for capacity per capita for the MetroWest and in sixth place among midsize towns statewide.
But Solarize also revealed needs for solar PV that could not be serviced by the program, and these in turn reveal opportunities and ways forward. For one, many homeowners found that their properties were too shaded or that their roofs were not well-oriented, too old or structurally incapable of supporting an array. Many of them are still interested in producing and/or consuming locally and cleanly produced electricity under some other scheme. We need to look into ways in which these “shaded-out” residents can go solar.
Secondly, the sizing of solar systems is always a challenge. After some period we may find that some systems are oversized, leading to overproduction of kWh and an accumulation of dollar credits in NSTAR accounts. We should monitor production and look into ways in which over-producing customers can sell or donate these credits locally.
Thirdly, Solarize was geared toward the private sector, that is, homeowners and businesses, but in our town it failed to make a big impact on the businesses. We need to help our businesses go solar.
Fourth, not-for-profit organizations, mainly houses of worship, were interested, but their tax-exempt status prevents them from benefiting from the State and Federal tax credits, making for much longer pay-off periods. We need to find ways to make solar financially attractive to not-for-profits.
Lastly, though Solarize was not designed to impact the public sector, it has shown that residents would be happy to see solar PV on municipal and school buildings and land, for all the same reasons one has for choosing clean, local, and resilient energy: as the source of electricity for their own homes, as a way of powering municipal properties, thereby reducing taxes and even generating revenue, as clear manifestations of Wayland's commitment to Earth stewardship, as a step toward increased resilience.
Kaat Vander Straeten (email@example.com), Solar Coach for Solarize Massachussetts 2012.