How Massachusetts is Encouraging Renewable Energy

The cost of heating is becoming an unmanageable expense for most residents in Massachusetts. This rising cost of energy has a lot to do with the dwindling reserves of fossil fuels in the world. Therefore, we are hard pressed to come up with better solutions that can support us in the long term. This need for clean and renewable energy sources has led to the development of renewable energy sources, like solar thermal electric power generators.

Solar thermal electric power generators work by converting solar heat into electricity. This puts this technology in direct competition with solar (photovoltaic) panels. So what benefits can users expect from the use of solar thermal electric generators?

  • They are more energy efficient: they able to generate a lot more power when compared to photovoltaic panels. For example, a 150 watts thermal electric power generator can produce the same amount of electricity as would a 990 watts solar panel installation.
  • They are cheaper to buy: they are cheaper to buy, when compared to solar panels. For instance, a 900watt solar panel installation would cost you around $5,000, whereas 900watt solar thermal electric would cost you $3,300 (MDOER).

Solar thermal electric power generators are versatile and are suited for varied heating needs, depending on their classification:

  • Low temperature collectors: used for heating swimming pools.
  • Medium temperature collectors: used for heating water or air.
  • High temperature collectors: used for electric power production.

To make it possible for the resident of Massachusetts to use this technology, the government has set up various incentive programs to reduce the cost of investing in this technology. Here is a breakdown of the legislation, achievements and cost of installation you can expect from taking advantage of these incentive programs.


Current State of Geothermal Energy

In order to help the US government recover from the economic slump, efforts are being done to stir the economy towards an industry that creates jobs through different sectors including the energy. In fact President Barack Obama instituted the 2009 Economic Stimulus Package. It is a program that aims to encourage different industries to create jobs including the energy sector.  President Obama has spoken frequently on energy matters, including during the 2008 Presidential debate with John McCain on October 15th, 2008 when he said that is impossible to find a short cut out of the problems. The focus must be shifted towards renewable energy.

Even the White House believes that providing financial assistance to different energy companies, especially the smaller ones, will ignite the economy.

Bruce Ritchey agrees with this. Ritchey is the CEO of the geothermal heating system manufacturer WaterFurnace. According to him, federal government should shoulder a portion of the funding, up to 10%. This should be done through provision of rewards for companies who will engage in the renewable energy business. Ritchey believes that this is the fastest and most effective way the government can help the industry grow.

There are many advocates for such an energy saving product and Ritchey is at the forefront of such an environmental campaign, concluding: “Every state should invest it in a geothermal incentive. I can't think of a faster, more cost effective, greener way to put people back to work, save fossil fuel, reduce carbon emissions and save homeowners thousands of dollars per year for the next 24 years. It's the stimulus that keeps on stimulating.”


Legislation on Thermal Electric Power Generation

The legislation for this type of green technology, in Massachusetts, falls under the Green Communities Act of 2007. Some of the ways this act seeks to support renewable, energy efficient technologies is by:

  • Encouraging energy-efficient programs to compete with traditional energy sources, by requiring utility companies to prioritize the purchase of all available energy-efficient improvements, which cost less that generating electricity, therefore reducing the cost of electricity for consumers.
  • Providing rebates and other incentives to consumers, for using energy efficient technologies.
  • Establish rules for “net metering” for installations of up to 2 megawatts

This act has led to the creation of incentive and rebate programs, which seek to reduce the cost of installation for Massachusetts residents and to ensure the compliance of utility companies in the provision of solar thermal power.


Cost and Savings

The cost of installing a typical solar water heating system is around £4,800 (including VAT at 5%). Savings are moderate - the system could provide most of your hot water in the summer, but much less during colder weather (EST).

The money needed to keep the engine running is manageable. Many heaters or systems that are used for water that would only provide several years of warranty. That is why it is important for owners to do maintenance checks in their solar panels. In fact, a yearly inspection may be in order. If that is too much, every three years should be enough.

Solar water heating systems can achieve savings on your energy bills.  Based on the results of our recent field trial, typical savings you may get when you take care of your system the right way may be up to $120 per year when replacing gas heating and $240 per year when replacing electric immersion heating; however, savings will vary from user to user (EST).

Typical carbon savings are around 230kgCO2/year when replacing gas and 510kgCO2/year when replacing electric immersion heating (EST).


Massachusetts is one of the most progressive States in the US in terms of pushing forward renewable energy. It has set up processes that encourage the direct cooperation of suppliers in making the technology more available to more people through tax cuts and tax breaks. There is also an incredible amount of involvement from the federal government which makes the continuous education of the consumers possible.

However, despite the tax cuts and tax breaks, the installation overhead cost remains high, too high for a family with average income. All three renewable energy sources would take more than six years for the initial investment to be recovered. Such a long term ROI is the biggest hurdle especially for families who are barely making ends meet.

The State still has a long way to go especially if you consider Massachusetts as one of the few States that is geographically compatible to source out power from renewable sources. For it to be met, though, the State needs to find a way on how make it more affordable than it already is. The overhead cost in installing these power sources is the biggest hurdle. If the federal government could find a way to cut the cost into half or a quarter, it might make it more viable for more consumers.


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