Solarize Mass Plus offers solar incentives to North Adams, Williamstown residents

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North Adams and Williamstown have been selected to participate in the 2019 Solarize Mass Plus program to promote the adoption of clean energy technologies, which this year will allow the inclusion of solar hot water heaters and battery storage for power generated by photovoltaic panels.

A partnership between the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the Department of Energy Resources and local communities, Solarize Mass Plus reduces the overall cost of solar in municipalities across the state, helping residents save as much as 21 percent on average on solar pricing compared to the statewide average.

The selections were announced Monday by the Baker administration.

"Our administration is proud to [continue] partnering with cities and towns across the Commonwealth to increase access to cost-effective clean energy technologies through the Solarize Mass program," said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in a prepared release. "This innovative partnership with municipalities and state agencies reinforces the Commonwealth's growing clean energy sector, saves people money and reduces emissions."

The Solarize Mass Plus program aims to increase the adoption of small-scale solar electricity systems and additional clean energy technologies such as battery storage, air source heat pumps, solar hot water, or electric vehicles through a grassroots educational campaign. It is driven mainly by local volunteers and reduced pricing that increases the savings for participants as more units are sold.

According to Nancy Nylen, renewable energy advocate and local volunteer with the program, said that in 2013, a precursor called Solarize Mass wound up motivating 80 Williamstown property owners to install solar panels at their homes.

She said the added technologies — battery storage and solar hot water — and a bigger region that includes North Adams will result in a higher participation rate, and the use of fossil fuels will be reduced further.

"We've got North Adams involved now so we're excited to be working in two communities now," Nylen said.

Battery storage allows a resident to store electricity while the solar panels are generating during the day, when power usage is minimal, and then use it at night when they need it more. It also allows the user to run air conditioners off the battery at peak usage times, such as during heat waves. They also come in handy during a power outage.

Solar hot water heaters also save energy by heating water with the sun, rather than with natural gas, oil or other fossil fuel-generated electricity, Nylen noted.

A homeowner with a big enough roof could do all three, saving the maximum amount of money and significantly reducing or eliminating their need for utility provided power.

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"They are all possible with enough roof space," Nylen said.

The program has selected SolarFlair Energy as the installer for the program. Any prospective participant can contact SolarFlair and apply for the program. Technicians would evaluate the property and propose a project, including the cost and the incentive discounts, and note the amount of time it would take until the lower energy cost would save the homeowner the same amount of money as they invested in the installation.

SolarFlair principals will be in attendance July 31 at a "Meet The Installer" event at the NORAD Mill, 60 Roberts Drive in North Adams. The evening's program will cover solar electricity and house battery electrical storage, available financing options and incentives, and solar hot water technology education. It will also be an opportunity to sign up for a no-cost, no-obligation site assessment by SolarFlair.

"Solarize Mass helps bring affordable clean energy technologies to residents and businesses across the Commonwealth," said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides in the prepared release. "We look forward to working with these cities and towns to offer solar, battery storage and other clean energy technologies which will help lower energy bills for homeowners and diversify the Commonwealth's energy portfolio."

Since its launch in 2011, 75 cities and towns have participated in Solarize Mass and Solarize Mass Plus, which has led to the contracting of more than 3,400 new small-scale installations at homes and businesses resulting in 23 megawatts of contracted solar capacity. To date, systems installed under Solarize Mass have reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 1,900 cars from the road annually.

Through a competitive bidding process, communities select designated Solarize Mass installers that feature the most attractive pricing, outreach and community education packages. The Solarize Mass Plus program, first piloted in 2017, pairs the Solarize Mass model with an additional technology offering, such as solar hot water or air source heat pumps.

"Our goal is to create a clean, affordable and resilient energy future for our residents and that's exactly what Solarize Mass achieves," said Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson. "Through this program, residents and business owners in these cities and town will have access to affordable clean energy options that will reduce emissions and their energy bills."

"Solarize Mass Plus helps provide affordable pricing for solar, battery storage and other technologies to communities across Massachusetts," said Stephen Pike, CEO of the Clean Energy Center. "Increasing access to renewable technologies at an affordable price will help homeowners take advantage of the numerous benefits clean energy provides, and we look forward to seeing the success of these campaigns."

Massachusetts currently has 2,418 megawatts of solar capacity installed statewide, enough to power more than 382,000 homes.

"I applaud the innovation in Williamstown that has led to this successful partnership with the Solarize Mass Plus Program," said state Sen. Adam G. Hinds. "I am proud to recognize that the first community in Massachusetts to offer its residents discounted battery storage systems, solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems is located in the Berkshires."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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