Tuesday June 5, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield and Lenox residents can consider solar energy to help power their homes and eventually save money on their electric bills.

Tonight, city and town officials will conduct a community meeting to explain how a state pilot program called Solarize Mass can help home and small-business owners invest in solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity for their own use.

The gathering is 7 p.m. at Berkshire Life Insurance Co., 700 South St., across from the Country Club of Pittsfield.

Pittsfield and Lenox are among 17 Massachusetts municipalities picked by a pair of state agencies, the Department of Energy and Resources and Clean Energy Center, to participate in the program.

The panels at Nash’s home face south, which he says is a great help. Nash expects his system to pay for itself in the long run.
The panels at Nash’s home face south, which he says is a great help. Nash expects his system to pay for itself in the long run. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle)

Through education and community outreach, Solarize Mass encourages the installation of solar projects that produce five kilowatts or less of electricity. The energy upgrades can be financed through a tiered pricing structure that provides increased savings as more people in the community go solar, according to local officials.

"We're trying to make solar energy more attractive to everyone," said James McGrath, Pittsfield's parks and open space manager. "The more people who participate, the cheaper it is for everyone."

Under Solarize Mass, a single company would bid to install the solar panels in both Pittsfield and Lenox, with the home and small-business owners determining how they will pay for their renewable energy systems.


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McGrath noted the higher the number of participants in the program, the lower the installation cost per household.

"We haven't established a target goal for participation, but we've heard there is interest in this," he said.

Lenox has already been providing financial assistance to encourage the installation of small solar energy projects in town.

Homeowner Seth Nash is one of four property owners to receive a green energy grant through the town to help pay for a solar panels to produce radiant heat and hot water for his residence. Nash expects his solar thermal energy system will pay for itself in the long run.

"The roof faces the south, which is a big help," he said. "You get a lot more energy out of thermal than you do photovoltaic."

While Solarize Mass focuses on solar electric projects, any alternative fuel source home and business owners employ will be an environmental, as well as financial, benefit to all.

"It's not just about the cost, but the carbon footprint and raising awareness of renewable energy resources through the program," said Adele Gravitz, Lenox's sustainable energy coordinator.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.