MA Solar Campaign Launches Third Phase of Affordable Housing Program

The Neighborhood Developers’ affordable housing development, 181 Chestnut Street in Chelsea, MA (Photo Credit: Sunbug Solar).

Boston, MA – Resonant Energy, the Boston branch of the Local Initiatives Support
Corporation (LISC), and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development
Corporations (MACDC) announced the third phase of the Solar Technical Assistance Retrofit (STAR) program.

The STAR program, first launched in 2021, provides technical and financial assistance to affordable housing organizations with sites in Massachusetts to catalyze the exploration of solar PV potential and break down existing barriers to adoption.

In the past two years, the STAR program has analyzed the portfolios of 31 affordable housing providers, encompassing more than 900 buildings. In the first two phases of the
program, housing providers have committed to a total of 4.9 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV)
across 113 rooftops, which is more than 20% higher than the program’s initial goal. These
projects represent nearly $11 million in lifetime savings for owners and reduce carbon
emissions equivalent to taking 879 cars off of the road. In the most recent phase of the
program, the STAR team supported seven participating nonprofit housing owners with
successful funding applications to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Gap Energy Grant Program, totalling $1.2 million in grant funding for solar and storage across the state.

The third phase of the STAR program will provide another 10 organizations with grants to
perform solar feasibility studies thanks to support from the Massachusetts Clean Energy
Center’s (MassCEC) EmPower Massachusetts Program and the Jampart Charitable Trust. The campaign has a goal of developing an additional 3 MW of solar which will create $250,000 in annual savings for providers and $6 million over the lifetime of the systems. For one selected participant, the initiative will include the exploration of onsite battery storage as a pilot to incorporate in future iterations of the program.

In addition to selecting 10 private developers for the third phase of the program, the
STAR team will also be working with the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) to analyze their
portfolio’s solar PV potential and overcome the legal, financial, and technical barriers to
adoption of solar PV. Successful approaches will be shared with all housing authorities in the Commonwealth.

“Deploying solar energy is critical to meet the Boston Housing Authority’s goals
for shifting to all-electric, healthy, sustainable buildings,” said BHA Chief of Staff Joel Wool.
“Generating clean power at home will put public housing tenants at the forefront of the energy transition.”

The additional scope of work included in the Boston Housing Authority research is
made possible by a generous donation from the Lauenstein Family Fund.

This year’s program kicks off with turbo-charged incentives from the Inflation Reduction
Act (IRA), passed in the summer of 2022, which reversed course on prior solar policy that was phasing out the federal investment tax credit for solar PV. At the time the policy passed, the investment tax credit value was set at 26% of the cost of a solar project. The policy now institutes a 30% investment tax credit value as a baseline for 10 years and allows for an investment tax credit value of up to 70% based on project characteristics, with most affordable housing developments being eligible for at least 40-50%. Significantly, the policy creates options for nonprofits and public entities to receive cash in lieu of a tax credit for the first time since the 1603 Grant program (active 2009 – 2012) via the new policy’s “direct pay” provision.

“The Treasury has been directed to issue the final details of the Inflation Reduction Act in
February 2023,” said Isaac Baker, Co-CEO of Resonant Energy. “We have already seen a dramatic uptick in interest in solar PV and expect interest to spike even further as the final rules come out and implementation begins. The savings estimates we’ll make in the coming year will likely nearly double anything we’ve seen in prior years.”

As the application period for the third phase of the program kicks off, some of the first
projects from Phase 1 have been installed and are beginning to produce power. More than a
dozen Phase 1 projects are scheduled for construction this spring.

One of the big challenges that has made adding solar difficult for affordable housing
developers in the past is coordinating the review and consent process with all of the lenders and investors affiliated with their sites. The campaign organizers have been working with these parties to help streamline this process and have built extra staffing time into the process to help alleviate this burden on developers hoping to take the next step toward clean energy.

Housing providers interested in participating in Phase 3 can apply here by February 28,
2023. The STAR team will be holding office hours on February 14 from 3-4 pm for interested providers to ask questions about the program.