Solarize Mass enrollment deadline is Monday
Time is running out for Great Barrington, Egremont and Adams property owners to enroll in the state-sponsored solar energy program designed to save them money on their electric bills.
Unlike the previous two rounds of Solarize Mass, the Monday enrollment deadline won't be extended another 30 days, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. MassCEC officials, who oversee the program along with the state Department of Energy Resources, said on Wednesday residential and small business owners must sign up no later than Monday.
DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia said starting the latest round in the winter, compared to the spring/summer of 2012 and 2013, made a deadline extension unnecessary.
"By rolling it out earlier, we gave people more of an opportunity to explore Solarize Mass who otherwise might not during the summer," he said.
Sylvia expects the next installment of the program to begin in the fall.
Solarize Mass has been a big hit with the two South County towns that teamed up to promote solar energy in their communities.
As of June 21, the Great Barrington/Egremont collaboration has combined for 57 signed contracts with RGS Energy, the Colorado company hired to install solar arrays in all three communities. Adams has 12 signed contracts.
The two-town partnership plans to produce 399 kilowatts of electricity, the fourth-highest among the four municipal collaborations totaling nine communities and six individual towns in the latest round of Solarize Mass. Overall, the 15 cities and towns have 558 contracts with the potential of producing 3,700 kW.
"I'm blown away by the response to the program," said Juliette Haas, Egremont's solar coordinator. "The reaction from Egremont and Great Barrington residents has been phenomenal."
The South County towns have nearly doubled the 200kW threshold, or Tier 5, needed for Solarize Mass participants to pay the least expensive installation cost for the solar panels. Currently, Adams stands at 65kW, or Tier 3.
Since Solarize Mass debuted three years ago, 170 home and business owners in Pittsfield, Lenox, Williamstown and Lee have installed solar arrays. Statewide, 1,250 property owners in 31 cities and towns have enrolled in the program.
Following a successful free assessment to determine the viability of solar energy, potential Solarize Mass enrollees have the option to purchase the photovoltaic system outright from the designated installer. They can also lease the solar panels or have the solar energy company own and maintain the project with the electricity generated sold to the home and business owner at a rate lower than the utility.
For Great Barrington and Egremont property owners unable to have their own solar array, they may be candidates for a shared residential solar energy project, according to both towns' solar coordinators.
"We had a lot more enthusiasm than unshaded roofs," said Malcolm Fick of Great Barrington. "Hopefully we can invest in solar gardens."
Haas added, "I hope the Egremont Green Committee can hold a future meeting on solar gardens for those who didn't have a perfect roof line."
The construction of solar gardens aren't covered under Solarize Mass.
Overall, the program has produced 9,400 kW, or 9.4 megawatts, since it began in 2011. The program is part of the state's plan to generate 250 megawatts of solar electricity capacity by 2017, according to state energy officials.
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