How long has BigSky been installing solar?

We started back in 2008 when the solar industry was just taking off. In addition to solar we have been involved in the construction industry since the 80’s and installed our first off grid solar power system back in 1999.


What kind of warranties do you offer?

All of our systems come with a 10-Year Workmanship Warranty to guarantee your system is free of defects on materials and components — this warranty can be extended to 20 years at an additional cost. Installation hardware will be serviced free of charge if defects are found. We use high quality PV panels and provide 25-year warranties for their products. Panel optimizer and Inverter warranties vary from 12 years to 25 years, depending on the manufacturer.


Do I have to worry about any maintenance work? 

No maintenance is needed with today’s grid tied solar power systems. Since there are no moving parts, you basically eliminate all maintenance.


Who takes care of the permits and paperwork?

We do. All you have to do is enjoy your savings.


What is the life expectancy of the solar panels and other components?

Solar panels have a life expectancy of well over 40 years. And with a 25 year warranty on the electronic equipment, you can feel comfortable with your investment.


What types of incentives are available?


Federal Tax Credit

Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

Click here for a Fact Sheet covering the basics of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

The solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is one of the most important federal policy mechanisms to support the deployment of solar energy in the United States. SEIA successfully advocated for a multi-year extension of the credit in 2015, which provides business certainty to project developers and investors. The ITC continues to drive growth in the industry and job creation across the country.

Quick facts

  • The ITC is a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on residential (under Section 25D) and commercial (under Section 48) properties.
  • The residential and commercial solar ITC has helped annual solar installation grow by over 1,600 percent since the ITC was implemented in 2006 - a compound annual growth rate of 76 percent. (See more solar industry data.)
  • The existence of the ITC through 2021 provides market certainty for companies to develop long-term investments that drive competition and technological innovation, which in turn, lowers costs for consumers.
  • In December 2018, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a comprehensive tax reform bill that modified many aspects of the U.S. tax code. The commercial and residential ITC were maintained under this legislation.

What is the Solar Investment Tax Credit?

The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is currently a 30 percent federal tax credit claimed against the tax liability of residential (Section 25D) and commercial and utility (Section 48) investors in solar energy property. The Section 25D residential ITC allows the homeowner to apply the credit to his/her personal income taxes. This credit is used when homeowners purchase solar systems outright and have them installed on their homes. In the case of the Section 48 credit, the business that installs, develops and/or finances the project claims the credit.

How does the Solar Investment Tax Credit Work?

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the income taxes that a person or company claiming the credit would otherwise pay the federal government. The ITC is based on the amount of investment in solar property. Both the residential and commercial ITC are equal to 30 percent of the basis that is invested in eligible property which have commence construction through 2019. The ITC then steps down to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021. After 2021, the residential credit will drop to zero while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10 percent

Commercial and utility projects which have commenced construction before December 31, 2021 may still qualify for the 30, 26 or 22 percent ITC if they are placed in service before December 31, 2023. The Treasury and IRS are currently drafting guidance which will inform solar developers of which percentage of ITC they will qualify for depending on when they started their project.

In December 2018, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a comprehensive tax reform bill that modified many aspects of the U.S. tax code. The commercial and residential ITC were maintained under this legislation.

History of the Solar Investment Tax Credit

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58) created a 30 percent ITC for residential and commercial solar energy systems that applied to projects placed in service between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007. In 2006, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act (P.L. 109-432) extended these credits for one additional year through December 31, 2008.

In 2008, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (P.L. 110-343) included an eight-year extension of the residential and commercial ITC, eliminated the monetary cap for residential solar electric installations and permitted utilities and companies paying the alternative minimum tax (AMT) to qualify for the credit.

In 2015, the Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 114-113) included a multi-year extension of the residential and commercial ITC described above and changed the previous “placed-in-service” standard for qualification for the credit to a “commence construction” standard for projects completed by the end of 2023.

In addition to the commence construction guidance underway at the Treasury and IRS referenced above, a broader regulatory project is also underway defining what property qualifies as solar energy property as defined under Section 48. Examples of property under consideration are energy storage, carports, solar canopies and roofing.

What Will Be the Impact of the 2015 ITC Extension?

The ITC has proven to be one of the most important federal policy mechanisms to incentivize the deployment of both rooftop and utility-scale solar energy in the United States. As a result of the multi-year extension of the credit enacted in late-2015, solar prices are expected to continue to fall while installation rates and technological efficiencies will continue to climb. The ITC is nothing short of a tax policy success story and we expect this fact to continue to play out over the next several years.

Specifically, we expect the roughly 27 gigawatts of solar energy cumulatively installed in the US at the end of 2015 to reach nearly 100 GW by the end of 2020. Moreover, the roughly 250,000 Americans currently employed in solar is expected to nearly double to 420,000 in the same time period - all this while spurring roughly $140 billion in economic activity. The continued success of the ITC demonstrates that stable, long-term federal tax incentives can drive economic growth while reducing prices and creating jobs in one of America’s fastest-growing industries.


30% of the cost with no upper limit. Existing homes, businesses and new construction qualify. Property must be principal or secondary residence.

New Tax Bill Offers Unexpected Benefits to Commercial Solar Installations

Commercial solar received two gifts in the recent tax reform package. Not only did the tax rate drop to 21% the new tax code also allows commercial solar projects to depreciate 100% of the system cost in the first year. 

As always we recommend that you consult with your CPA to determine the best way for you to take advantage of the current tax code. 

New Hampshire Solar

On March 8, 2018, the Commission issued Order No. 26,111 to modify the Commercial and Industrial Solar Incentive Program (Program).  This Program has been modified by Commission Order to consolidate the two eligible project categories: Category 1 was previously for solar electric and thermal systems rated less than or equal to 100 kW (AC) or thermal equivalent and Category 2 was previously for solar electric systems greater than 100 kW (AC) but less than or equal to 500 kW (AC).  Incentives are limited to 25% of the total project cost or $50,000 if less than the AC incentive payment otherwise calculated, whichever is less.  The Program is available to non-residential structures with a commercial electric meter located in New Hampshire.

Incentive levels for PV systems are as follows: 
•$0.40/watt (lower of AC and DC) for new solar electric facilities (Step 1 application received on or after March 19, 2018); and
•Expansions to existing solar systems are not eligible. 

Incentive levels for solar thermal systems are as follows: 
•$0.12/rated or modeled kBtu/year for new solar thermal facilities fifteen collectors in size or fewer; 
•$0.07/rated or modeled kBtu/year for new solar thermal facilities greater than fifteen collectors in size; and
•Expansions to existing solar systems are not eligible. 

The NH PUC has opened the Commercial and Industrial Incentive to solar projects up to 500kw. 

For more information, visit NH Public Utilities Commission website
 

Massachusetts Property Tax Incentive

You will receive a 100% exemption on value added by solar system for 20 years.

Solar energy systems used as primary or auxiliary allow taxable property to be exempt from local property tax for a 20 year period.
 

Massachusetts SMART Program

Massachusetts has always been one of the best states for solar. Not only does the Bay State have the high electricity rates that lead to a short payback period for your solar investment – it also has a history of having strong solar incentives for property owners looking to own a solar panel system.

One of the best solar incentives currently available in the state is the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) market, which incentivizes the production of a solar panel system for 10 years. However, the current SREC II program has reached its cap, leading the state to plan on rolling out a new incentive. Legislators are hopeful that this SREC II replacement will encourage the solar industry to continue growing throughout the state, and also decrease costs for electric utility customers. 

When does the new Massachusetts solar incentive start?

The new incentive is called SMART, which stands for Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target. The SMART program will likely be implemented starting in summer 2018. Until then, homeowners are still eligible for the SREC II program. 

When the SMART program starts, solar system owners will receive a payment from the state for their solar production at a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy produced. The compensation, or “all-in rate,” that a system owner receives is calculated by subtracting the value of the energy (through net metering credits) from the total incentive amount (so, as the value of the net metering credits go up, the value of the incentive is lower).

The difference between SMART and Massachuetts’ SREC II program

Both the SMART program and SRECs award customers based on the amount of electricity produced by their solar panels. However, there are some practical differences in the two programs.

With SRECs, you’re receiving a certificate that you can trade on the market, the value of which varies depending on market conditions (including supply and demand). SMART, on the other hand, is fixed: once you’re awarded a particular incentive amount per kWh, that is going to be what you receive for the duration of the incentive program. (You can find specific incentive values for each utility below, under “How the SMART program works.”)

Should you wait for SMART, or sign up for SREC II?

Both programs offer great financial incentives for solar, and in both scenarios you’ll “break even” on your solar panel system in under five years. However, if you’re a homeowner and have been thinking about installing solar, you’re going to see bigger savings if you go solar with the SREC II program. That means you should give us a call as soon as possible. For systems over 25 kW, the SREC II program will end at the end of March, and for all other systems (including most residential systems) the program will end in summer 2018.

Here’s an example scenario to help illustrate the difference between the two programs for a Massachusetts homeowner named Eileen. Eileen is an Eversource customer and has an 8 kilowatt (kW) solar panel system.

  • In the SREC II program, Eileen generates approximately 10 SRECs each year and sells them at the market rate, which earns her about $19,600 over the course of 10 years. (This assumes that SREC prices will decline at historical rates.) Between lower energy costs and the SREC II program,  her solar energy system saves her $63,600 over 20 years.
  • In the SMART program, Eileen earns $0.34 cents per kWh of electricity, minus the value of her net metering credits. At the end of the 10 year program, she has earned about $15,600 from her SMART program payments. Between lower energy costs and the SMART incentive, her solar energy system saves her $59,600 over 20 years.

Every system is different, but this example should give you an idea of the difference between the two programs. If you live in Massachusetts and are considering solar, you’ll save more with SREC II than with SMART.
 

How the SMART program works

The SMART program has a “block” structure that dictates the incentive amount you’ll receive. As more people install solar panels, a block will “fill up” towards a predetermined threshold, measured in megawatts of solar panel capacity. Once the threshold is reached, the incentive is reduced for everyone who goes solar after that. Each block is 200 megawatts (MW) of solar installations, and the value of the incentive declines by four percent between each. Block 1 rates for each utility is below. (These numbers are current as of January 2018; check with your installer to ensure you have the correct price.)

SMART values for Eversource (NSTAR)

SYSTEM SIZELENGTH OF PROGRAMINCENTIVE VALUE ($/KWH)

Less than or equal to 25 kW (low income)10-year$0.39

Less than or equal to 25 kW10-year$0.34

25 kW – 250 kW20-year$0.26

250 kW – 500 kW20-year$0.21

500 kW – 1,000 kW20-year$0.19

1,000 kW – 5,000 kW20-year$0.17

SMART values for Eversource (WMECO)

SYSTEM SIZELENGTH OF PROGRAMINCENTIVE VALUE ($/KWH)

Less than or equal to 25 kW (low income)10-year$0.33

Less than or equal to 25 kW10-year$0.29

25 kW – 250 kW20-year$0.21

250 kW – 500 kW20-year$0.18

500 kW – 1,000 kW20-year$0.16

1,000 kW – 5,000 kW20-year$0.14

SMART values for National Grid

SYSTEM SIZELENGTH OF PROGRAMINCENTIVE VALUE ($/KWH)

Less than or equal to 25 kW (low income)10-year$0.36

Less than or equal to 25 kW10-year$0.31

25 kW – 250 kW20-year$0.23

250 kW – 500 kW20-year$0.19

500 kW – 1,000 kW20-year$0.17

1,000 kW – 5,000 kW20-year$0.16

SMART values for Unitil (Fitchburg Gas & Electric)

SYSTEM SIZELENGTH OF PROGRAMINCENTIVE VALUE ($/KWH)

Less than or equal to 25 kW (low income)10-year$0.36

Less than or equal to 25 kW10-year$0.31

25 kW – 250 kW20-year$0.23

250 kW – 500 kW20-year$0.19

500 kW – 1,000 kW20-year$0.17

1,000 kW – 5,000 kW20-year$0.16

Similar to the current SREC program, the proposed incentive for small-scale projects of less than 25 kW (like the vast majority of residential systems) would run for 10 years. For larger projects, developers would be looking at a 20-year period.

One major difference between the current SREC program and SMART is that, in addition to the baseline incentive amount, the program offers bonuses for particular types of installations. These “adders” increase the per-kWh incentive for building a solar canopy, using energy storage, building a system on a landfill, and other innovative solar systems.

Solar canopies, energy storage, and other adders that increase the value of your new MA solar incentive

The incentive payment that you initially qualify for depends on the size of your solar panel installation, but you can increase your total per-kWh incentive with adders for a few different circumstances. 

Some of these adders are based on the location of the installation. For example, if you’re installing a solar canopy, you could increase your base incentive by $0.06 per kWh. Other location-based installs that are eligible for an adder are building-mounted projects and those installed on brownfields and landfills.

Other adders are based on the off-taker (also known as the person utilizing the electricity). These adders can range from an additional $0.02 per kWh to $0.06 per kWh and include incentives for public entities and community shared solar users. Low-income property owners are also eligible for an adder worth $0.03 per kWh.

There is also a proposed adder for battery storage that is integrated with a solar PV system. Depending on how big the battery is compared to the solar panel system it’s paired with, this adder could be anywhere from an extra $0.0247 to $0.0763 per kWh of electricity. The adder is dependent on two factors: how big the battery is compared to the solar panel system it’s paired with, and how much electricity the battery can provide at a given time.

For example, if you have a 4 kW solar panel system and install a 1 kW Aquion Aspen battery with it, you’ll get an additional $0.0247 per kWh of electricity. If you install a 3 kW sonnen eco compact, your incentive will increase to $0.0667. The final adders for energy storage aren’t yet set in stone, but these numbers can give you an idea of what to expect if you install a solar-plus-storage system.

 


Call or email today: 800.371.0838 • info@bigskysolar.com