Installing Solar Panels in Sandwich, Massachusetts
Last Updated February 14, 2024
By Michael Jones
Michael literally wrote the book on solar (it’s called The Homeowners’ Guide to Going Solar) and has been a solar consultant for over four years.
My own home town of Sandwich, Massachusetts takes great pride in its status as the oldest town on Cape Cod. It’s a distinction that can have a big impact on solar projects because many homeowners who are thinking of installing solar panels in Sandwich need to get permission from the Historic District Committee of Cape Cod’s most historic town.
That’s because much of Sandwich, including the downtown area and Route 6a, falls within the Old King’s Highway Historic District, the 80 square mile area that stretches from the Mid-Cape Highway to Cape Cod Bay.
Any towns that fall within that area – starting with Sandwich in the west and heading east as far as Orleans – don’t just require solar projects to get the usual electrical and building permits, but also demand that permission be obtained from the town’s separate Historic District Committee.
These committees are charged with assessing projects through the lens of “historical appropriateness”. Solar projects in Sandwich that can be seen from any of dozens of designated scenic roads will be either denied permission to move forward or will be reduced in size so that panels are placed only on rear-facing sections of roof.
High Percentage of Single Family Homes
Despite this hurdle, Installing solar panels in Sandwich is actually quite possible. Firstly, the town has a high proportion of owner-occupied single family homes, which is the ideal type of unit for residential solar.
In Sandwich, 93% of the houses fit that description, compared to the statewide average of 76% so the town does not fit the typical Cape Cod demographic of seasonal homes interspersed with a high percentage of retirees.
Instead, the relatively easy commute into Boston coupled with the excellent schools tend to attract families, who typically use a lot of electricity and, therefore, see higher than average electric bills.
Cape Cod’s Only Power Station
Despite the location of the Cape’s only working power station, right alongside the Cape Cod Canal, electricity rates in Sandwich are among the highest in Massachusetts. This leaves many homeowners looking for alternatives and makes them receptive to at least listening to pitches for solar panels.
And there are plenty of solar companies only too willing to give that pitch. Sandwich’s location as the first town you come to after crossing the Sagamore Bridge makes it easily accessible to off-Cape solar companies and their armies of door-to-door reps.
Sunrun, Trinity Solar and Summit Energy are just some of the big solar companies that are based off-Cape but have a strong presence in Sandwich. And then there are the local Cape-based companies that also service the town.
Shady Sandwich Neighborhoods
One challenge to installing solar panels in Sandwich is the shady neighborhoods. Perhaps only one of Sandwich’s residential neighborhoods can be described as sunny, and that’s Town Neck, located right where the Cape Cod Canal flows into Cape Cod Bay, and where few trees grow in the sandy soil.
Most other neighborhoods are quite shaded, like Canterbury Estates or the aptly named Lakewood Hills (built by a lake, in a heavily wooded and hilly area). That said, we’ve installed half-a-dozen solar systems in Lakewood Hills and not a single one in Town Neck, so abundant sunshine isn’t the only factor to consider.
If homeowners are willing to take down (or at least trim back) some trees in order to get a viable system, installing solar panels in Sandwich is quite possible, even in the shadiest of neighborhoods.
Two Community Farms of Solar Panels in Sandwich
But not all solar panels in Sandwich are being installed on residential rooftops. One high-profile example of this is the 4.9 megawatt solar farm that was built just off Jan Sebastian Way in 2009, and another is the much newer 4.4 megawatt community solar farm that was built on Cotuit Road in 2023.
Almost 11 acres of the 19 acre lot was cleared to make way for the ground-mounted array after the developer, Amp Energy, won the approval of the board of selectmen, the Sandwich Planning Board, the Sandwich Conservation Commission, and the Cape Cod Commission, not to mention concerned neighbors.
It’s perhaps a sign of the times that the only town on Cape Cod that is home to a working legacy power station is now approving solar farm projects that will no doubt one day replace those power stations.
In you live in Sandwich, MA and have ever thought about installing solar panels, we’d love to help you decide. Just contact us and set up an informative, no-pressure chat about what it takes to go solar in Sandwich.
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