On December 15th, the Boston City Council approved a measure introduced by Mayor Thomas Menino that provides incentives to building owners to incorporate rooftop solar technologies.  The measure is the culmination of the three-year Boston Solar Initiative that produced a five-fold increase in the city’s solar capacity.  The primary incentives are a streamlined permitting process coupled with a reduced building fee structure for residential, commercial, public and Solar panelsinstitutional building owners. The streamlined permitting is the result of collaboration among the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Inspectional Services Department, the Fire Department, and the Boston Landmarks Commission.  For those familiar with the often lengthy Boston permitting process, this streamlining measure is most welcome. 

The city has also compiled a Solar Boston Map that allows project proponents to perform a feasibility analysis of their buildings.  Besides examining the solar potential of a building, the Solar Map shows users whether they are in an NSTAR Area Network (such areas are usually high-density and may present solar connection problems), or in one of Boston’s nine historic districts, which typically have more stringent building alteration standards. 

Other financial incentives for solar installations are almost too numerous to mention:  the Federal Investment Tax Credit; the Commercial and Industrial Federal Tax Credit and Grant; the Residential Federal Tax Credit; the Five-Year Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery Depreciation; the Mass Solar Renewable Energy Certificate Program; the Commonwealth Solar II program; Net Metering; and other property and sales tax exemptions and excise tax deductions.  The benefits of the these programs vary, but they can provide immediate tax breaks worth more than 30% of a system’s installed costs, as well as future tax relief and accelerated depreciation. 

Project proponents who want to incorporate solar design in their projects can benefit greatly from the available incentives and the collaboration among the city’s permitting bodies, as well as from new technologies that are lowering the cost of solar energy systems.