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Massachusetts city cleverly targets churches, small businesses for solar

Melrose, Massachusetts, won the 2019 SolSmart Innovation Award. SolSmart is funded by the US Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

The city, with a population of around 27,000 and located in the Boston metropolitan area, won the award because it chose to expand beyond the residential market to nonprofits, places of worship, and small businesses by the end of 2019.

Melrose has installed solar at Melrose Highlands Congregational Church (MHCC), Green Street Baptist Church, and First Baptist Church (pictured above). SolSmart explained today:

Through a unique financing pathway, MHCC was able to purchase 61.5 kW of solar across two roofs with an upfront discount achieved by transferring the Federal Investment Tax Credit to a third party. The 61.5kW of capacity allowed the church to generate their entire electricity usage, claim $9,444 SMART incentive revenue in year one, and sell the excess electricity produced to support the work of the organization. The total savings in year one alone will be $15,687 and over $200,000 by year 25.

SolSmart is a program that recognizes cities, counties, and regional organizations for making it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar. It helps local governments and regional organizations bring new business to their community, promote economic growth, and foster the creation of new jobs. It has more than 350 designees across the US.

The Melrose Energy Commission pulled in the key ingredients to a successful campaign: local community support, trusted introductions to decision makers, technical expertise, and highly visible examples of success. The community partnered with Boston-based Resonant Energy, a solar provider specializing in nonprofit solar finance options, the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, and the technical complexities of serving projects 25kW to 300 kW.

Electrek’s Take

Melrose is going for efficiency in its approach by targeting mid-sized roofs, which is an untapped market. As SolSmart rightfully points out, nearly all rooftop solar development has focused on residential projects smaller than 25kW and commercial projects larger than 300kW.

The Massachusetts city is targeting a market that makes up most of the nearly 80% of the addressable rooftop solar market with capacity under 300kW.

The city deserves its innovation award, and for spotting the obvious potential. Hopefully Melrose will serve as an example for other cities’ mid-sized solar roof capacities. It’d be great to see more houses of worship with solar panels on their roofs.

Photo: First Baptist Church in Melrose

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.