Thursday July 26, 2012

Stepped up publicity of a newly created state program has more Pittsfield and Lenox residents taking a shine to consider installing solar arrays to help reduce their electric bills.

As a result of two community meetings within the past 10 days, a total of well over 200 homeowners between the two communities have inquired about Solarize Mass, according to local officials. Solarize Mass is designed to assist home and small-business owners invest in solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity for their own use.

Initially about 150 people expressed interest in the program, following an introductory meeting held in early June.

"We had plenty of fresh faces in the crowd which shows the word is getting out," said Nate Joyner, Pittsfield's Solarize Mass coordinator.

"The majority of the people at the second set of meetings were new," added Michelle Waldgier, vice president of marketing for Astrum Solar.

Earlier this month, the state selected Astrum to help implement the pilot program. The Maryland-based firm has already scheduled or completed 50 site assessments to determine if homeowners have properties conducive to producing solar energy.

The site visits have resulted in two Pittsfield homeowners agreeing to install solar panels, with additional sales pending in both communities, Astrum officials said.

Waldgier noted, "And when you install one solar project in a neighborhood, others in the area become interested and start thinking about solar energy.


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

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

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 fewer of electricity.

"The whole benefit of this program is to drive home education about solar," said Joyner.

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.

Under Solarize Mass, As trum 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.

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.

"There's never been a better time [for solar energy] as the price of panels has come down and the technology has im proved," said Susan May, Lenox's Solarize Mass coordinator.

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


How to sign up

Solar arrays

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