By Doug Hanna
A recent court decision should help increase the number of solar panels installed in the Commonwealth. Last month, the Massachusetts Superior Court issued a summary judgment that overruled part of a 2009 memorandum to wiring inspectors from the Massachusetts State Board of Electrical Examiners (BSEE). The BSEE memorandum stated that only companies controlled by master electricians were allowed to advertise or contract for solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in the state. A few companies, including S + H Construction, had been cited by the BSEE as being in violation of this memorandum, had been issued summonses, and were facing significant fines. These actions threatened to change the standard structure of many solar companies in Massachusetts.
Because of the potential difficulty in taking on a state board represented by the Attorney General’s office, we were ready to pay our fine, give up on our plans of growing our solar and alternative energy business and move on. However, before we were scheduled to appear before the board, we were contacted by Wendy Jacobs of the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School. Wendy and her students took on our case and the cases of some other companies. After much hard work, and three years of foot-dragging and delays by the board, the Harvard Law team requested a motion for summary judgment from the court. S + H Construction and the other companies finally had their day in court and for the most part, prevailed. The law, as it now stands, restores the right of solar companies who are licensed General Contractors to advertise and contract for solar PV projects. Of course, as has always been the case, the electrical wiring must be done by a licensed electrician. There are many energetic individuals that are eager to jump back into the good work of installing solar PV panels in collaboration with electricians. S + H has recently signed a number of contracts now that the memorandum has been voided.
( Update: Since this article was published, S + H Construction has reluctantly decided to shut down its Solar Division. The falling prices of solar panels, as well as the struggle, to defend ourselves against unwarranted and punitive action by the BSEE has taken its toll. We still have a much deeper knowledge of solar than the average general contractor and regularly collaborate with solar trade partners, some of whom used to work here at S + H Construction. )