Re: query about photovoltaics (solar panels)
From: David Heimann (
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2020 12:38:11 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Lisa,

Good to hear that you're going for solar panels! Here's some information for your questions (embedded into your message):

Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2020 22:34:14 -0400
From: Lisa Wolf <tigerlisa [at]>
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: [C-L]_ query about photovoltaics (solar panels)
        <CAGZ+vBhm0uCWo3XBjHCPSg7BNKuxfH9+i7ZeQPUFQ9PA8hEudg [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"

I'm Lisa Wolf, a member of Bay State Commons Cohousing, which is in the
process of constructing our new home in Malden, MA. The Eco Committee is
currently discussing how to make photovoltaics (hereinafter referred to as
solar panels) happen. We decided to ask other cohousing communities that
have installed solar panels for electricity about their experiences and

Our questions are as follows:
? Are you getting the expected amount of energy from the panels you have

Yes. SunBug Solar, our contractor and installer, said that we should get around 44278 kW-hrs of electricity annually (from the installed 34 kW system), and that's what we've getting since installation in September 2013.

? How did you raise the money to get the panels? If it was from individuals
and not the group as a whole, did those people who were willing and able to
invest in solar get any kind of financial, or other, reward (e.g. a fee

Half the money came from a capital improvement fund we had contributed to over time. For the other half, we had a loan from seven households within the community, at 3% simple interest to be paid off within seven years (in actual fact, it was paid back in around five years). The lenders received no incentives besides the 3% interest.

We also Federal and state tax rebates (note that the Federal rebate has its final year in effect in 2021, unless extended before then), as well as Solar Renewable Tax Credits (SRECs). Note that since then the SREC program has been replaced by the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program.

? Were you happy with your installer? Any recommendations (or warnings)?
(This question may turn out to be useful for other cohos in your region.)

Yes, we were. The panels have operated with no more than routine oversight, and as mentioned earlier have delivered the promised electricity.

And, I always like to add,

? What question(s) didn't I ask you here, but should have? (and what are
your answers?)

Q: What form of financing is best to pursue -- direct purchase, bank loan to purchase, power purchase agreement (PPA), or lease?

A: The best form is a direct purchase using your own funds, a condo assessment, or friendly internal lenders. In that way, you would pay no interest or interest negotiated with your own residents or with friendly partners. The next best is to obtain bank financing (a figure of merit is 4%-5% over seven years). In both cases you get the benefit of rebates and incentives available only to the owners of the panels.

PPAs and leases, while more heavily promoted, are not as favorable financially. Often, they amount to only a small discount of purchased electricity with a long-term contractural commitment.

Thank you in advance for your help and time!

And all the best in your solar acquisition and the rest of your path to move-in

Best regards,

Bay State Commons Cohousing
Malden, MA

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