The State of Massachusetts completed a seven stop tour educating the public on its newest electricity grid development program – the 1.6 GW SMART solar program. As the highly successful SREC programs come to an end on November 26, at 12 PM EST, over 11,000 direct solar professionals within the state are paying attention.

Kaitlin Kelly, Manager of Solar Programs at Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), ran the show – while Michael Judge, Director of the Renewable and Alternative Energy Division at MA DOER, supported – along with utility representatives. The presentation, Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program Transition and Launch (.pdf PowerPoint presentation), is available from the SMART page.

The presentation began by communicating the timing of the transition, as well differences in the documentation necessary to apply. Within this application process is one program nuance that arose as a result of the buildup of projects as the Net Metering caps were being hit in regions of the state, and that the prior solar program – SREC II – technically hit its cap back in January of 2016.

Starting on November 26, at 12 PM EST, the SMART portal will go live – all applications received in the first week, through 11:59 PM EST, on November 30th will not be ordered by the application receipt date – but instead the date that they received permission to Interconnect from the local utility.

This has led much of the market to assume many hundreds of megawatts of applications will be submitted in that first period, leading to some state regions quickly running out of available capacity.

With the Net Metering caps still being hit in some regions, the DOER came up with a work around – the Alternative On-Bill Credit.

The basics of the SMART program is that you generally offset your electricity with solar production, savings you anywhere from 15-24¢/kWh – then SMART gives you a bonus on that production. Additionally, if you produce extra electricity – SMART pays you in full for that amount.

However, if you build a solar power system behind the meter, that system will still have standard Net Metering rules applied against your regular solar savings. And as noted above, many areas of the state, systems above 25 kW-AC no longer have net metering eligibility.

Thus, the Alternative On-bill Credit which allows you to build a stand alone system, with a unique electric meter placed nearby the original meter, that will receive the full SMART benefit as defined in the Capacity Block, Base Compensation Rate, and Compensation Rate Adder Guideline (.xls).

While this does add inefficiency to the overall grid, for instance extra meters, and no ability to lower demand charges with solar or energy storage at the site, it does offer a work around to the political impasse associated with the Net Metering caps.

There were still many topics that need to have questions answered, along with plenty more bits of information that snuck out. Some of that at the Bridgewater presentation included:

  • Should a state level solar power incentive be required to collect 1099 forms from those who install to track their SMART incentive payment?
  • SMART incentive money cannot be used to retrofit energy storage projects to SREC solar power installations, however, the DOER is searching for techniques to do so – such as part of the State’s Clean Peak Standard.
  • SMART solar systems can be later retrofitted with energy storage systems and make use of the incentives.
  • Municipalities are not participating in SMART, however, the state is seeking ways to generate solar interest in those areas.
  • Questions on how and where to install disconnects, and meters, and who would own those meters.
  • SMART payments will start after three billing cycles have passed since the installation started running, and will then make payments on a monthly basis.

Multiple Massachusetts contractors reached out to pv magazine to express stresses on the program’s open ended questions in a few areas, as well how the state would protect customer social security numbers.

The program will be reviewed once it hits 400 MW of solar power has been issued in the program, and some of the SMART money says this review will be set into motion after the first week of the program.

About John Fitzgerald Weaver

John Fitzgerald Weaver is a solar developer; known digitally as the 'Commercial Solar Guy.' As a project developer and installer, he’s sold and managed 50+ solar projects, valued over $25 million, ranging in size from 5kW to 1500kW. He’s been involved in many aspects of the solar supply chain –- as a company founder, developer, project manager, manufacturer, permit runner, salesman, contractor and financier. In his free time he tries to get away and clear his mind by climbing mountains, or more regularly by enjoying an IPA or scotch, and really loves the strange connection between politics, energy, finance, and environment in the energy world.