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Column: The Gloucester Solar Challenge

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The Gloucester Solar Challenge has just completed its first month and we have been astounded at the response. The message of reducing money spent on your electricity while reducing greenhouse gases, has been heard. We are encouraged by the number of homeowners who are acting now, because the feedback from our state legislature has not been hopeful for expanding solar incentives, and the Federal 30% tax credit is scheduled to end 12/16.

For those interested in taking the leap to go solar, the Gloucester Solar Challenge can help. We are working hard to spread the word about the benefits of solar, to ease the installation process, and to provide a discounted price.

We have chosen a company, Direct Energy Solar, that is able to give us terrific discount pricing based on volume purchasing. This is similar to how a B.J.’s or Costco is able to provide brand name products at lower prices. Direct Energy Solar’s price includes high quality equipment with 25 year warranties on equipment, and 10 year guarantees on workmanship and energy production with a contract to back it up. They have established a three tiered pricing platform so that the more homes and businesses that sign up, the lower the price goes for everyone. The first to sign up will have their bill adjusted and will pay the same as a homeowner who signs on April 30, 2016, when this program ends. We are ending in April to insure that all homes will be installed and up and running by 12/31/16 to be eligible for the 30% Federal tax credit. If you comparison shop, you will find that Direct Energy Solar’s pricing will be below the MA average according to MassEnergy’s statistics.

To select a vendor to represent Gloucester Solar Challenge, the TownGreen2025 committee set up a rigorous and fair selection process. The selection committee consisted of two TownGreen2025 members and three Gloucester residents chosen for their varied experience and expertise. One Gloucester CEC member participated in a non-voting capacity, and a technical consultant was available for specific questions. Requests for proposals were sent to four companies, previously chosen by other Mass Solarize towns, and one local vendor. All proposals were carefully considered against the set of criteria specified in the proposal request. Direct Energy Solar was chosen because the committee felt their proposal gave the best overall terms, especially considering price, experience and capacity, outreach support, and lease opportunities.

If you call for a free assessment, an experienced sales person will come to your house and discuss options for the number and placement of solar panels. He will explain warranties and all financing options. Because of the depth of their experience, the salespeople are able to trouble shoot unique issues such as the need for extra roof support for which Direct Energy Solar provides up to a $750 credit. All options will be written down for your later perusal. After a contract is signed, a “ Project Lead” is assigned to your installation and is responsible for managing the job. This includes filing all permits, registering SRECs, and helping prepare papers for financing. But most importantly, your “ Project Lead” is there to answer questions and insure a trouble free installation.

I would like to encourage everyone not to shy away from “going solar” because of the need to finance. The current incentives, available low interest rates, money back through SRECs, and current state and federal tax credits, make solar very affordable. These incentives can be confusing, but a trained sales person can explain them throughly. Although size, and sun exposure are important factors, typical payback for homes with good solar potential is 5 to 7 years for a system that will last for 25-30 years.

Want to learn more?

  • Come to our first workshop December 9th at 7:00 at the Rose Baker Senior Center. This will be a general informational meeting with time to ask questions.
  • Businesses interested in going solar can attend a special “Commercial Solar Electricity” presentation. Issues including financial incentives and financing options will be discussed. 3:00 at Maritime Gloucester on December 9th.
  • Check out FAQs on our website a www.gloucestersolarchallenge.org , it’s a work in progress!
  • Sign up for a free assessment at www.gloucestersolarchallenge.org
  • Email us to schedule a meeting for your group! GloucesterSolarChallenge@gmail.com

Posted by Monty Lewis

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