Monday July 16, 2012

LENOX -- A newly created state program has dozens of Pittsfield and Lenox residents considering solar energy to help power their homes and eventually save money on their electric bills.

About 150 homeowners between the two communities have expressed interest in Solarize Mass, according Astrum Solar, a solar array installer. Solarize Mass is designed to assist home and small-business owners in vest in solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity for their own use.

The state recently selected Astrum to help implement the pilot program first introduced to Pittsfield and Lenox at a joint community meeting in early June.

Representatives from the Maryland-based firm, along with state and local officials, will host follow up meetings tonight at Lenox Town Hall and next Monday, July 23, at Pittsfield City Hall. Both gatherings are scheduled for 7 p.m.

Astrum already has established a foothold in Pittsfield and Lenox, according Michelle Waldgeir, the company's vice president of marketing.

"Already, we've scheduled more than 20 site assessments, but we anticipate about 50 percent of [the 150] on the list will have site visits done," she said.

Waldgeir noted the site assessments will determine if homeowners have properties conducive to producing solar energy.

"We get on the roof and use a [special device] to measure the amount of sun and shade it gets," she said. "From that, we can determine how much sun it gets throughout the year and what the output will be from the solar project."

The deadline to enroll in Solarize Mass is Sept. 30.

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.

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

Under Solarize Mass, Astrum will 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.

State and local officials have noted the higher the number of participants in the program, the lower the installation cost per household.

"Solar is a relatively easy way to use a renewable energy source," noted Adele Gravitz, Lenox's sustainable energy coordinator.

Homeowners have the option to purchase the photovoltaic system outright from the company, lease the solar panels or have the installer own and maintain the panels and the electricity generated to the homeowner at a rate lower than the utility.

Pittsfield's Solarize Mass coordinator, Nate Joyner, says now is the time for people to go solar.

"[Utility] rates will not be able to match solar prices for several years," Joyner said. "It is critical people understand that this is a limited time program and they need to sign up before the Sept. 30 deadline to take advantage of this amazing opportunity."

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



Solar powered homes

Homeowners considering solar photovoltaic systems to generate electricity for personal use need to consider the following:

  • A solar array needs a mostly unobstructed southern exposure.
  • Photovoltaic panels should be angled at 30 to 45 degrees.
  • A PV system needs at least four to six hours of direct sunlight.
  • There must be ample room on the roof or the ground for solar panel installation.

On the Web: www.SolarizeMass.com

Source: Massachusetts Clean Energy Center