A Colorado-based company familiar with the Berkshires will help Great Barrington, Egremont and Adams property owners avail themselves of a state-sponsored solar energy program designed to reduce their electric bills.

RGS Energy, formerly named Real Goods Solar, has been chosen to install solar arrays in the three towns participating in the latest round of Solarize Mass. Last year, 58 home and small business owners in Williamstown and Lee, along with 108 in Northampton, signed contracts with the RGS. The Western Massachusetts communities accounted for 30 percent of the 551 contracts from nine cities and towns statewide in 2013.

Local Solarize Mass officials are pleased the company will remain a presence in the county.

"We like their experience and the pricing is competitive," said Juliette Haas, solar coordinator for Egremont.

RGS East Coast representative Jim Oliva says his firm welcomes the return engagement.

"The fact we had success in towns close to the ones we have now, helped bring us back," he said. "We had already seen interest in Adams when we were in Williamstown."

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which oversees the program along with the state Department of Energy Resources, announced in December that 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. RGS also won the right to serve the Western Mass partnership of Williamsburg, Whately and Chesterfield.

Local solar officials say interest in Solarize Mass has been high, especially since the program was formally introduced to residents of Adams on Wednesday in Adams and Great Barrington/Egremont in late January.

"We had 85 to 90 people and nearly all signed up for an assessment," said Adams solar coordinator Diane Cutillo.

"We have over 250 people signed up for assessments [for both towns]," noted Malcolm Fick, Great Barrington's solar coordinator. "We are a hotbed for solar."

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.

Property owners in the participating communities sign up for a solar assessment with their respective installer -- 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.

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

Residents of Great Barrington, Egremont and Adams interested in participating in Solarize Mass have until June 30 to enroll in the state-sponsored energy program.

Great Barrington: For more information, call (413) 528-1619, ext. 8 or online at solarizegb@gmail.com.

Egremont: For more information, go online at solarizeegremont@gmail.com

Adams: For more information, call (413) 743-8317 or online to solarize@town.adams.ma.us.