Column: Finding help to 'go solar'

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Many of us have been reading about or getting numerous phone calls and emails about the benefits of “going solar.” Climate change is happening at an alarming rate, and we all want to save money on our electric bill. But understanding the complexities of installation and financial issues can be a challenging endeavor. Luckily when my family decided to take this step, a smart and knowledgeable friend had done the research, and we followed in his footsteps. For more than a year now we have learned a lot while generating green electricity, and saving money. Many other TownGreen 2025 members also have been generating their own green electricity and we would like to share our collective experiences and knowledge with others through the Gloucester Solar Challenge, sponsored by TownGreen2025.

Our goal is simple. We hope to encourage residents and small businesses to switch from electricity generated by oil and gas to clean green electricity generated from their own solar panels. This will help reduce the amount of carbon collecting in our atmosphere causing significant climate changes, while also saving money on electric bills.

Our strategies to achieve this goal include increasing education and awareness, streamlining the vendor selection process, and providing a very competitive price through group purchasing power. By providing educational meetings and researching options and installers we hope to simplify this process for interested residents. This approach is based on the very successful “Mass Solarize” program sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, which has been offered in dozens of Massachusetts towns.

Informational workshops will be held from November through April 2016 for those who need to learn more before making a decision. We will be reaching out to small groups, so email us (gloucestersolarchallenge@gmail.com) if you would like us to speak with your group. The Gloucester Solar Challenge team will present basic information, answer individual questions, and you will be able to meet the vendor. The TownGreen2025 website (TownGreen2025.org) will have a special section providing much more information about “going solar.”

When making any large purchase, buyers are always encouraged to get several quotes. But for some, comparing costs, products and warranties can be daunting. To make this process less formidable, a Gloucester Solar Challenge team has done the comparisons and selected one company to recommend to residents. Our selection process was similar to the process many other communities have used in similar solarize programs. We asked five companies to submit formal proposals and compared them on a variety of factors such as pricing, capacity, experience, and quality. The selection committee consisted of five Gloucester residents and two non-voting Gloucester Clean Energy Commission members, plus a consultant who was available for technical issues.

This chosen vendor will be publicly introduced at the Clean Energy and Sustainability Fair at the high school on Nov. 7. Signups will be available to provide free home solar evaluation with no strings attached to Gloucester homeowners and businesses.

Financing a solar installation is another daunting process but essential in making any decision. Currently, there are several financial incentives that make going solar very doable for most homeowners and small businesses. One of the most significant incentives is a 30 percent federal tax credit on the entire installation cost including roofing if necessary. But it is scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2016 and it is unclear if this will be renewed at the same level. The state of Massachusetts is also provided subsidized loans to banks who apply to provide low-cost loans to help purchase solar installations. In most cases, the cost of the loan per month is less than the utility bill savings per month, so it really is an easy decision.

This is one reason we are challenging residents to act now. Massachusetts also provides financial incentives through a tax credit and Solar Renewable Energy Credits. When all these perks are tallied the financial benefits to individuals or businesses become clear.

Please come to our Clean Energy and Sustainability Fair on Nov. 7 at the Gloucester High School from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The chosen solar vendor will have a booth at the fair for you to gather information. There will also be many other clean energy vendors, short talks on clean energy and sustainability issues, food, and music.

Susan Hoague is a Lanesville resident.

Posted by Dick Prouty

Dick Prouty

Dick Prouty was the Executive Director of Project Adventure(PA), an international non-profit based in Beverly, MA, for thirty four years, until he recently retired in the winter of 2015. Under Dick’s leadership, PA, whose mission is to advance active learning, has become one of the leading institutions in the experiential education field and is responsible for 500,000 new students per year being introduced to adventure based education classes in physical education, health, fitness, counseling, and in academic classes with integrated experiential learning. Curricula development, training and consulting, publishing books and digital media, leadership development, and organizing and leading learning communities are among the core competencies he has developed over his time at PA.

Dick and his wife, Doris, have lived in Lanesville, Gloucester for the last 43 years, and raised two children, Ila and Seth. He has come to deeply appreciate the special place that is Cape Ann. Along with Co-Chair Candace Wheeler, and a growing number of volunteers of TownGreen2025, Dick is now focused on developing a plan to have Gloucester and Cape Ann make a difference in addressing the threat of climate change.

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