North Adams, Williamstown teaming up to educate residents on benefits solar energy

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NORTH ADAMS — Wondering if it's feasible to install solar panels on your roof? Or a solar hot water system?

Officials in North Adams and Williamstown might have an answer for you.

The two communities are joining forces to educate residents about solar energy incentives offered through the Clean Energy Commission and Department of Energy Resources.

North Adams and Williamstown have applied to participate in the Solarize Mass Plus program, which encourages residents to invest in small-scale solar energy development. Though they have not yet formally been notified, both expect to be accepted into the program this year and are looking to get the ball rolling.

The Solar Mass Plus program aims to leverage the collective buying power of local residents and contract with a single company for solar, solar hot water, and residential electrical battery storage investments in local homes and businesses.

The communities will hold an informational session about the program in North Adams at 7 p.m. June 25 in the NORAD Mill, 60 Roberts Drive.

This is the first time North Adams has applied to the program, but Williamstown participated in 2013. It resulted in 76 solar energy installations in the town, generating a total of 559.4 kilowatts of electricity.

"That was really the motivation for another round," said Town Manager Jason Hoch. "It was seen as very successful last time, and got a lot of people over the hurdle [to invest in solar energy]."

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Hoch noted that it can be difficult for the average homeowner to "even know where to start" when considering if an investment in solar energy is an appropriate choice.

"One of the strongest benefits of this type of program is being able to have the communities partner with the CEC to vet installers and do that research," Hoch said.

North Adams hopes to learn from Williamstown's experience in the program, said Mayor Thomas Bernard.

"We didn't submit the application jointly, but we both made it very clear that we expect the municipalities to work together," Bernard said.

Helping to lead the charge toward solar is Williamstown's COOL Committee, the name of which is short for CO2 Lowering and reflects the organization's goals of promoting environmental sustainability in Williamstown.

Bernard noted that the Solarize Mass Plus program aligned with the goals laid out in the city's Vision 2030 master plan.

Like with the COOL Committee in Williamstown, there's similar interest in environmental sustainability in North Adams, Bernard said.

"There's an interest in forming a North Adams committee, a grassroots resident committee to really make some progress on those kinds of issues," Bernard said. "I would think the COOL Committee in Williamstown, which has been doing this a lot longer and has a network behind them, will be a model of best practices and we'll tap into what they have done."

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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