Great Barrington, Egremont and Adams property owners will soon learn more about a popular state-sponsored solar energy program designed to reduce their electric bills.
In the next several weeks, the three Berkshire communities enrolled in the latest round of Solarize Mass plan to host meetings to educate residents and small-business owners how to tap into the program, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
The state agency has announced the meeting for the two South County towns will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 29, at the Crissey Farm Banquet facility on Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington. The Adams meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m. at the town library.
MassCEC, which oversees the program along with the state Department of Energy Resources, announced last month Great Barrington will partner with Egremont, one of four partnerships approved by the state agencies. Adams and five other municipalities are solo participants in a program.
Meanwhile, state and local Solarize Mass officials expect no delay in implementing the program locally, following a second attempt at finding a state-qualified installer of solar arrays. The project was rebid as Great Barrington/Egremont and Adams each received one offer.
"We should get multiple bids this time," said Malcolm Fick, Great Barrington's solar coordinator.
MassCEC's solar program director, Elizabeth Kennedy noted Wednesday's deadline produced several new proposals that will be "expedited for review.
"We're still on schedule and by mid-February we should have an installer," added Egremont's solar coordinator, Juliette Haas.
Local solar officials anticipate high interest once the program is formally introduced to residents of Great Barrington, Egremont and Adams as its success elsewhere has piqued interest in solar energy.
"We have already developed a data base and mailing list ... of about 150 people who have expressed interest," said Donna Cesan, director of community development for Adams.
Those in Adams wanting to add their names to the list can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since Solarize Mass debuted nearly three years ago, 1,250 home and business owners in 31 communities have installed solar arrays; 170 total in Williamstown, Lee, Pittsfield and Lenox.
"I get a lot of questions all the time and we plan to put [information] in the annual town census going out, prior to the meeting," Fick said.
Haas says Egremont also will rely on the census mailing and reach out to non-residents as well.
"We will have our own information meetings to accommodate weekenders and second-home owners," Haas said.
Solarize Mass officials say the ultimate goal is to educate all residential and small-business property owners on how to invest, through the program, in solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity for their own use. The introduction sessions will include how property owners sign up for a solar assessment -- free of charge ---to determine if their home or business is a viable site for a solar array.
Homeowners have the option to purchase the photovoltaic system outright from the designated installer, lease the solar panels or have the solar energy company own and maintain the panels, with the electricity generated being sold to the homeowner at a rate lower than the utility.
Solarize Mass enrollees pay the minimum start-up costs if their community reaches Tier 5, or contracts totaling at least 200 kilowatts. Williamstown reached 559 kilowatts and Lee 294 kilowatts during the enrollment period that ended Oct. 31.
Overall, Solarize Mass has produced 9,400 kilowatts, or 9.4 megawatts, since it began in 2011. The program is part of state's plan to generate 250 megawatts of solar electricity capacity by 2017, according to state energy officials.
"There's always a heightened level of energy awareness due to Solarize Mass, even after the program ends in the participating communities," said Elizabeth Kennedy, MassCEC's solar program director.
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