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Solar Power Initiative Announced

By Paul Tuthill


Hatfield, MA – The top state energy official in Massachusetts marked Earth Day this week by announcing a new solar power initiative. The pilot program is aimed at bringing the power of the sun to the masses. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports .

A grassroots marketing effort will attempt to sell solar power house by house and business by business and through volume discount pricing overcome a chief drawback the high cost of installing solar power systems. Richard Sullivan, Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs says the program called Solarize Massachusetts introduces a new business model for small scale solar projects for homes and businesses
Proponents of the program hope it will take solar energy in Massachusetts beyond the early adopters and reduce the need for substantial government rebates for solar. Sullivan says Massachusetts has one of the most ambitious clean energy programs in the country, but 80 percent of the roughly 22 billion dollars spent on energy annually in Massachusetts goes out of the state..most of it out of the country .
Since 2006, incentive programs have helped increase solar power by 20 fold in Massachusetts. The state has 45 megawatts of solar power installed and another 40 megawatts under contract for installation. By statute, 250 megawatts of solar power is to be installed by 2017.
The effort to increase adoption of solar power will begin this year in four pilot communities Hatfield, Harvard, Scituate and Winchester. These were selected at random from geographic regions and each meets certain criteria under the state's Green Communities Program.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which is partnering with the state, to run the pilot program, is seeking bids from companies willing to provide homeowners and businesses with a turnkey solar power system on a tiered price schedule that lowers the costs for multiple installations. Existing state and federal renewable energy credits would also be available for purchasing the solar power systems.
Andy Brydges, the program director for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center says funding is available for up to 400 projects..
Officials say there is no average installation cost for a solar system. Christopher Smith put solar panels on the roof of his printing and publishing business in Hatfield in 2006. He estimates his monthly energy savings at 700 dollars a month. At that rate the project will pay for itself within a decade but only because he got half the installation cost paid for by the state .
Funding for the solarization pilot project comes from a clean energy surcharge on Massachusetts utility bills andfrom the sale of renewable energy credits.