North Adams Transcript 04/06/2013,
Williamstown joins 10 other solar-seeking towns
By Phil Demers and Edward Damon North Adams Transcript
WILLIAMSTOWN — The town joined 10 other communities inducted Friday into a state program geared toward growing local solar installations.
This expansion of Solarize Mass — which aims to bring individuals, private sector solar developers and state entities together to facilitate smallscale solar projects— was announced during a Northampton visit by Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan.
Wendy Penner of the Williamstown COOL Committee, a group of Williamstown residents working to reduce the town’s carbon dioxide emissions, said a solar energy campaign was on the group’s agenda for some time.
“When we heard about the program, we knew we wanted to go after the opportunity,” she said. “We have a lot of people in town who have already done a lot to make their homes more energy efficient. A lot of people see solar as the next step, but think it isn’t necessarily in their budget.”
The three-year-old Solarize Mass program has helped “dramatically increase” the numbers of residents and business owners undertaking solar projects in participating communities, said Alicia Barton, CEO of Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC).
“It’s really a grassroots, communitydriven model that brings [all parties] to the table,” Barton said.
The ultimate result is a reduction in cost in solar projects, according to Barton.
Penner said the COOL [carbon dioxide lowering] Committee will be starting an information campaign. Then, the town will send out a request for proposals for solar contractors.
“Once a contractor is selected, people can begin getting insight into whether they have a site appropriate for solar and learn about pricing and financing options,” Penner said.
As the number of people in town participating in the program increase, she said, the overall cost for everyone will decrease.
Penner gave much credit to the town for applying to the program, as the committee of residents couldn’t apply by itself.
“The town has been a leader on installing solar on its own buildings,” she said. “Now it’s helping make it affordable for everyone else.”
Cities and towns joining Williamstown as new participants are Bourne, Brookline, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Lee, Medford, Medway, Newton and Northampton.
Barton said that last year, the program helped install roughly 5 megawatts of new clean energy— 850 systems— in 17 cities and towns.
Statewide residential solar electricity prices dropped 28 percent in 2012, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association. The state has set the goal of reaching 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017. Barton said MassCEC hopes to induct another 10 communities into the program later this year.