Interested in Going Solar? Solarize Bolton wants to hear from you!

| January 25, 2016

By John Agoglia
Even though we are in the dead of winter, one recently-formed committee has its sights set on the summer sun and is in the process of seeing how many other Bolton residents share their vision.

Solarize Bolton is currently surveying residents via an online survey to gauge interest in the  installation of  solar panels on their property, as it seeks to offer a tiered volume discount program for clean electricity. Based on results, the group hopes to secure funding as part of the larger Solarized Mass umbrella.

“We just sent out info via email lists this week and thus far have had 91 responses to the survey, with minimal marketing behind it,” said Sharon Shepela, Committee Chair, Solarize Bolton. “We feel we will be able to show that Bolton is onboard for moving forward with solar energy.”

With surveys in hand, the group said it plans on entering the two-stage proposal process later this month in hopes of securing a grant and support from the Mass Clean Energy Center (CEC) to promote the Solarize program and allow it to select an installer for the program.

Now in its fifth year, according to its website, Solarize Mass is a partnership between MassCEC, the Green Communities Division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources that has led to more than 2,500 residents and business owners in 51 cities and towns across the Commonwealth signing contracts for small-scale solar electricity systems.

“Once accepted by CEC and we become part of Solarized Mass, we will be offered Tiered pricing so that if we install a certain number of kilowatt-producing panels we get one price,” said Shepela “If we install more, we get an even bigger price reduction, all the way up to tier five. The more people who install solar, the less everyone pays.”
The tiered pricing plan centers around the program securing an installer for all those that sign up for the program.
“Once part of the program and we gather RFPs, we will choose the installer that best fits needs for the community,” said Shepela. “At that point, the advantage we get as a community is that they use economy of scale. Instead of buying for one house at a time, they can buy and plan a work schedule and residents can get better prices than if they were to get installers on their own.”

Moreover, for those that are early adopters the risks and costs are no more than the last household in, according to Shepela, because as the price drops as the project scales, those that invested early on will receive rebates of the difference for every tier hit.

Understanding there is a learning curve for consumers in making the switch to solar electricity, Solarize Bolton said that a significant portion of the grant will be earmarked to educate residents.

“The schedule we see is that by sometime in March we will be able to hold a Solar 101 event in town,” said Shepela. “This is a big public meeting with a pro from the state that will answer questions on problems and benefits.”

However, one of the biggest questions many homeowners have about switching to solar revolves around the initial costs associated with converting to solar, which may run as high as $30,000 according to Shepela.

“The state is very interested in making it easy for residents to go solar in response to the climate crisis. At the end of 2015 it released details on a $30  million loan program that provides low-cost loans for the price of installation for 10 years,” she said. “There are also Federal and state tax incentives that can help offset the costs.”

Shepela added that there would be ongoing incentives for homeowners that can put money back in their pockets.
“National Grid is required to buy back from consumers the electricity we are not immediately using at the rate we pay them in credit so then when we are pulling electricity from grid we simply call on those credits,” she said. There is enough sun here in spring-summer-fall to carry most people over through the winter. We can fairly quickly get $0 electric bills.”

However, the driving force behind Solarize Bolton goes beyond the dollars and cents of moving off the grid for generating electricity.  We need to help the environment. Moving to solar power is good for the planet,” said  Shepela.
Homeowners and small businesses interested in learning more about Solarize Bolton and taking the survey can visit http://www.solarizebolton.org/

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