Taunton man soaks up sun and savings

Taunton solar panels
Taunton Gazette Photo by DAVE DEMELIA
Russell Morris shows off the solar panel that sits atop his Bay Street home.

Staff Writer
Aug 02, 2010

Taunton — One Taunton resident has found a new way to invest through a rebate program provided by the Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant, and all he has to do is sit back and watch the sun rays bring on the savings.

“Instead of my money being in the bank, it’s on the roof,” said Russell Morris, with his hand on his forehead to shade the sun from his eyes. “I get more money doing this than putting it in the bank. The savings are more than interest. The tax credits are better. The rebate is better.”

Morris is the first eligible customer for the TMLP’s Solar Rebate program, which provides full compensation for solar panel projects that produce 2.5 kilowatts — or $4 for every watt up to $10,000.

With a 3.2-kilowatt solar electric system, Morris received the maximum rebate, which was coupled with a 30 percent federal tax credit through the Renewable Energy Tax Credit and $1,000 through the state’s Residential Renewable Energy Income Tax Credit.

Sunlight Solar Energy, Inc., which installed the system, said the panel installation will pay itself back in savings after about six years, with solar energy covering approximately 65 percent of all Russell’s electric use.

“After that, you’re making money,” said Ryan Fitzsimmons, a system designer at the Newton-based company.

Cindy Angus, TMLP spokesperson, said their program allows customers to find the vendor they are most comfortable with. There are now four or five TMLP customers in line to receive a rebate, and others that are interested can contact the plant.

Russell found out about the TMLP rebate program at the ballots during the city’s special election, when talking about his aspirations to install solar panels with TMLP commissioner Mark Blackwell.

“I said if you could hold off, TMLP is looking at this rebate program,” Blackwell said.

At the time, the TMLP was considering joining the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, an organization that was looking for $360,000 from the TMLP to put into a pool for green energy projects around the state. Instead, the TMLP set aside $350,000 for its own Solar Rebate program.

“Once we joined the MTC, we couldn’t have controlled how the money was spent,” said TMLP commissioner, who has worked for the plant for more than 37 years. “I know some circles of the TMLP were criticized for not joining the MTC. But the MTC wasn’t going to have a direct effect on our rate payers.”

Blackwell said that the more people install solar panel systems, the less the peak load will be during the summer, an amount of energy which the TMLP is contractually obliged to be able to generate year-round.

“With more folks putting the solar panels up, the more we chip away at it, the more advantageous it will be to our rate payers.”

Previous solar panel endeavors for the TMLP include a 2.3-kilowatt project at Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School in 2008. At the time, TMLP commissioners approved to fund the education project for up to $50,000.