Sunday January 27, 2013

It’s no surprise to those of us who live here, but Massachusetts has some of the highest energy costs in the country.

Without its own supply of natural gas, oil or coal, the state Department of Energy Resources estimates that about $18 billion of the $22 billion spent annually for fuel by Massachusetts consumers goes out of state or to foreign sources.

One way to cut down on both costs and reliance on out-of-state suppliers is by developing renewable energy sources. That’s why we see windmills popping up on mountain ridges everywhere.

Less evident, perhaps, is the drive to develop solar energy installations. But even there progress is being made through a joint "Solarize Massachusetts" program sponsored by the Department of Energy Resources and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

The center, based in Boston, just announced a second year of discount pricing on the purchase or lease of small-scale solar installations. Deadline to apply is Feb. 20.

Essentially, spokeswoman Catherine Williams explained to me Friday, those interested apply to have their community selected for the Solarize Massachusetts group-buying program.

Cities, towns and groups of adjoining communities can apply.

If your town is chosen, the center will send staffers to map promotion programs, pick and train a local "solar coach" as a community leader and help select a contractor to install all the solar units.

Because the community is buying in bulk, the more
who sign up, the greater the savings, Williams said. Costs vary depending on the kinds of installations.

Last year, 17 cities and towns took part, with 803 homeowners and businesses signing contracts to install solar electricity systems, the center said in a program announcement. Together, they generate 5.1 megawatts of energy, enough to power 807 average houses a year. The goal is to power 30,684 homes by 2017.

To find out more and to apply, visit the center’s website at www.MassCEC.com, call (617) 315-9355, or write Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, 55 Summer St., 9th floor, Boston MA 02110.

To reach Charles Bonenti:
cbonenti@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6211.
On Twitter: @BE_Lifestyles