The Williamstown and Lee property owners participating in Solarize Mass will pay the minimum startup costs for enrolling in the state-sponsored solar energy program expected to help them save money on their electric bills.
With two weeks left to sign up, 41 residents in Williamstown and 23 in Lee are under contract with a Colorado company hired to install solar arrays in the two communities.
The final installation cost is determined by the number of total kilowatt hours in each community being produced under Solarize Mass, with 200kw, or Tier 5, being the cheapest threshold. Currently Williamstown and Lee have reached 254kw and 201kw, respectively, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center state agency overseeing the program.
Local representatives of Solarize Mass are pleased, but not surprised, by their communities' response to renewable energy.
"The explosion of interest in Williamstown and Lee is due to pent up demand," said Jake Laughner, Williamstown's solar coordinator.
"Solarize Mass is like frosting on the cake. A lot of people were already conscious about green energy," added Lee's solar coordinator, Roger Scheurer.
MassCEC officials say Williamstown, Lee and Northampton account for 58 percent of the 209 contracts already signed statewide. The Western Massachusetts communities are among the 10 Massachusetts municipalities participating in the first round of Solarize Mass in 2013.
"This program has always been very popular in Western Massachusetts and these communities, along with Northampton, are showing again the clean energy revolution is alive and well across the western part of the state," said state agency CEO Alicia Barton.
Meanwhile, Barton says the second round of Solarize Mass is underway, with applications from individual cities, towns and groups of contiguous municipalities due to the state by Oct. 22.
As for home and small-business owners in communities currently taking part in Solarize Mass, they have until Sept. 30 to sign a contract with the designated installer. In separate bidding processes, Lee, Williamstown and Northampton chose Real Goods Solar.
Under the two-year-old program, homeowners can buy a photovoltaic system outright from a state-approved installer, lease the solar panels, or have the company own and maintain the panels, with the electricity generated being sold to the homeowner at a rate lower than a utility's charge.
At the request of home and business owners, the companies complete a site assessment -- free of charge -- to determine the solar compatibility of the properties and potentially offer several financing options to pay for the solar projects.
A pilot program in 2011, Solarize Mass was expanded last year, leading to 803 private property owners in 17 Massachusetts cities and towns -- including 58 homes and businesses in Pittsfield and Lenox combined -- to sign contracts with installers by early November.
The roof and groundmounted solar arrays will generate 5,100 kilowatt hours of electricity statewide. About 9 percent of that will be derived from solar arrays in Pittsfield and Lenox, according to MassCEC.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.
f you're interested ...
Residents of Williamstown and Lee, Berkshire towns participating in Solarize Mass, have until Sept. 30 to enroll in the state-sponsored energy program
n Williamstown: For more information call (413) 441-2150 or online at www.Sloarize@Williamstown.net
n Lee: For more information, call (413) 281-3711 or online at www.SolarizeLee@scheurer.us
Communities wishing to take part in the second round of Solarize Mass must apply by Oct. 22. Applications are available on line at www.masscec.com/solarizemass by scrolling down to Solarize Mass Program Offerings.