Lenox and Pittsfield businesses eye solar for savings

Friday August 3, 2012

LENOX -- Eiran Gazit is hot for solar energy to help power his bed and breakfast.

The co-owner, along with wife Michele, of The Gateways Inn is seriously considering the installation of a solar array atop his lodging establishment.

"We have a very flat roof we would like to cover with solar panels," he said. "I’m gung-ho about this."

Gazit was among 10 Lenox entrepreneurs gathered at Town Hall Thursday afternoon to learn how Solarize Mass can reduce their electric bills. The newly created state program is designed to assist home and small business owners invest in solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity for their own use.

Lenox and Pittsfield 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 pilot program.

Since Solarize Mass was introduced locally in early June, the program has focused on the well over 200 homeowners between Lenox and Pittsfield who have inquired about the pilot program. Lenox officials also found increased interest from the business community, prompting Tuesday’s midday meeting to explain the benefits of solar energy.

Town officials and representatives from Astrum Solar outlined how Solarize Mass encourages through local, state and federal incentives the installation of solar projects that produce five kilowatts to 15 kilowatts of electricity. The state hired the Maryland-based company to implement the program in Lenox and Pittsfield.

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

Local interest in solar energy isn’t surprising, according to Astrum’s Michelle Wald geir, as Massachusetts has the 7th highest electricity rates in the country based on 2010 figures.

"The whole idea of going solar is people believe [electric] rates will go up," said the company’s vice president of marketing.

Astrum 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 close to 10 homeowners between Lenox and Pittsfield agreeing to install solar panels, with additional sales pending in both communities, Astrum officials said.

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

Jeff Clifford, owner of Clifford Oil Co., is also seriously considering adding his business and home to the growing list of solar powered properties. Clifford wants to reduce his reliance on the 2,000 kilowatts of utility-produced electricity used each month at the fuel oil distribution facility in Lenox Dale.

"I’m definitely going to do something because I use more electricity at home than at the shop," he said after the meeting.

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.

Home and business owners 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 sell back the electricity generated to the homeowner at a rate lower than the utility.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.

Solar powered Berkshires

-- Solarize Mass is open to home and small businesses in Pittsfield and Lenox.

-- Property owners interested in a solar array installation should contact Astrum Solar at 1-800-903-6130 or on line at www.go.astrumsolar.com/pittsfieldlenox.

-- Astrum is also accepting inquiries from Dalton, Lee, Lanesborough, Rich mond and Stockbridge.


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