Stern noted that in 2010, there were 780 solar panel installations in the state. In 2011, the number rose to 1,700. Last year, there were a whopping 2,600 installations, he said.
“It quadrupled in three years,” he said.
Stern said the reason is a set of incentives that make the pricey panels less painful to the pocketbook.
The biggest incentive now for homeowners is what are called SRECs, or Solar Renewable Energy Credits, which require utilities to buy electricity from homeowners who create more power than they use.
“The homeowner receives a check from the utility company,” he said.
A system like his, generating 7.8 kilowatts, would get 11 SRECs a year. At $250 per SREC, he said, the financial gain can be considerable.
Meanwhile, the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit while the state has a rebate program worth up to $1,000 a year.
Stern said his $39,000 system cost him just $22,000. With the savings on his electricity bill and the SREC income, he expects he should be able to pay off his system in seven or eight years.
“I pay for it what I would have paid on my electric bill,” he said, explaining that when the sun is shining, his electric meter spins backward as it feeds electricity back into the grid.
Stern said the system is very simple and easy to install, requiring just a building permit from the town to put in and then little to no maintenance. Meanwhile, he said, solar panels increase the value of a home.
What’s even better is that the utility now pays full credit for the electricity it buys, he said. In the past, utilities weren’t required to pay the full amount.
“It’s what makes it work in this state,” he said. “We are the sixth largest state in the country when it comes to generating solar power.”