To the editor for the Gloucester Daily Times:
In response to questions from people interested in our ongoing Gloucester Solar Challenge and to a letter in the Gloucester Daily Times on Dec. 9, 2015 (”Seeing red over Town Green solar company”), I would like to clarify some facts about the initiative called the Gloucester Solar Challenge. Gloucester Solar Challenge is one program of the grass-roots initiative called TownGreen2025. TownGreen2025 is a community-wide effort of volunteers working to minimize Cape Ann’s carbon footprint in a decade through energy conservation, replacing fossil fuel use with alternative energy resources, and a strategy using carbon-reducing offsets to help heal the planet. TownGreen2025 was organized for the betterment of our environment through the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation, a nonprofit acting as a civic hub and community education center. We believe in the power of private citizens and the local economy to harness Cape Ann’s creative and innovative spirit to address the most pressing legacy issue of our time: the warming of the planet and rising oceans due to excess carbon in the atmosphere.
Encouraging residential and commercial use of solar energy is a key effort by TownGreen2025 toward energy independence. Air photo studies show more than 3,000 homes in Gloucester have roofs that are favorably positioned for use of solar. Combined with state and federal incentives, the Gloucester Solar Challenge offers homeowners a unique opportunity to go solar with a well vetted company and discounted costs.
We treasure fairness, openness and employing local people whenever possible. Following the guidelines of the Solarize Massachusetts program, through which hundreds of solar systems have been installed in many Massachusetts communities, TownGreen2015 sent out a request for proposals to five companies, including a local installer. This local firm was the only one not vetted through the Mass CEC, but we wanted to encourage a Cape Ann solar business to participate. While buying locally is an important factor, there were other variables we felt were also critical to consider. For example, we felt that a competitive discount price, obtained by choosing a single installer, was very important. Other decision factors included determining which firm could: handle the expected work volume, carry out a robust marketing outreach program to locate interested homeowners, back up their equipment, installation and performance, provide multiple economic options such as leasing, ownership and low-interest financing. To take advantage of the 3 percent interest Mass Solar Loan, for example, the solar installer needs to be vetted by the Mass CEC.
The committee, composed of five Gloucester citizens (two from TownGreen2025), concluded that the firm that offered the best deal was Direct Energy Solar. Regrettably the local installer, despite having a fine reputation for his work, did not best meet the financial and capacity criteria, and lacked a leasing option. In addition, Direct Energy Solar offers a very strong production guarantee, which actually reimburses homeowners for any shortfall between contracted and actual energy production of the solar system over a multi-year period of time.
Learning about all incentives available and how they make going solar a “no brainer” will be a very welcome surprise for many Cape Ann residents, especially those on a budget. We encourage you to study the offerings of other solar firms and compare them with the unique combination of options, financing and price available through the Gloucester Solar Challenge. To learn more visit http://towngreen2025.org and click on Gloucester Solar Challenge.
Gloucester Solar Challenge