Orange Energy Committee member advocates for SMART solar program

ORANGE — An Orange Town Energy Committee member is advocating for a new program to replace Solar Renewable Energy Certificates in light of recent reductions in incentives.

Robert Michaud Jr. said the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program is a declining block tariff program. SMART was created by the state Department of Energy Resources to create a long-term sustainable solar incentive program that promotes cost-effective solar development in Massachusetts.

SMART encourages the development of solar photovoltaic technology by supporting 1,600 megawatts of new solar generating capacity. Michaud explained this 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity is divided into eight 200-megawatt blocks and a customer’s incentive compensation will remain constant over the life of the program if their project is in one of these blocks. A 4 percent decrease accompanies each subsequent block and the incentive payment is automatically paid by the electric distribution company via paper or electronic check, rather than being sold at a market or an auction.

According to Michaud, a home solar array produces direct-current power that is converted by an inverter to alternating current and conditioned to match voltage, phase and power with the electricity coming into the home from power lines on the street.

A customer will, at times, need power coming in from the street and, at other times, will produce more than they need, Michaud explained. When this latter scenario occurs, the extra electricity goes to the street and a meter counts it.

The electric company reads the net result on a customer’s meter and calculates a bill each month. You will have a small bill if you made less electricity than you used. If you made more electricity than you used, however, you have what is called a net-metering credit. Michaud explained the credits are calculated in dollars and this sum gets multiplied by the excess electricity you produced and stored as a credit on your account.

Michaud, who said he has been on the town energy committee for about seven years, said he has solar panels at his home, having taken advantage of the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate program, a predecessor of SMART. He encourages every Massachusetts resident to invest in solar if their property gets a reasonable amount of sunlight during the middle of the day.

“You feel good about yourself and feel good about doing something good for society, the environment, the grid,” he said. “For me, it was like making an investment in getting a double-digit rate of return.”

Solar is appealing, Michaud said, because you reduce your carbon footprint and don’t depend on foreign governments for oil to heat your home.

He said a couple of years ago he would, upon request, visit neighboring towns with what he jokingly called a “dog-and-pony show” to advocate solar’s benefits. He visited the municipal boards of Orange, Athol, Wendell, New Salem and Warwick, among other towns.

For more information about the SMART program, visit masmartsolar.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

Author: Going Green

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