By Allison E. Rogers Furbish, Vital Communities
In a recent study, researchers at Yale and the University of Connecticut found that where and when people decide to go solar has a lot to do with whether their neighbors are going solar, too. . In fact, having other solar homes nearby matters more than almost any other factor – including income and politics.
If that’s the case, then Solarize Upper Valley is priming the region for an explosion of residential solar energy installations in the coming years. With 120 homes signing Solarize contracts in five towns during the program’s first 15-week campaign last spring, and 10 more towns in the midst of the program now through January 31, a lot more Upper Valley residents will be seeing solar panels in their neighborhoods.
Solarize Orford* volunteer Emily Bryant signed her contract to go solar in November with her town’s competitively selected partner installer, Milhouse Enterprises (Belmont, NH). Bryant happens to be an opponent of the Northern Pass power project, and so she sees going solar as her opportunity to “do something about it instead of just running around complaining.”
For others, the opportunity to take advantage of special discounted ‘Solarize’ pricing as well as available state and federal incentives make this a good time to reduce or nearly eliminate electric bills – particularly as electric rates rise. As of early December, 40 homeowners in the 10 current Solarize communities had signed contracts totaling 239 kilowatts; two dozen more had made verbal commitments to go solar; and nearly 700 had requested site visits with their communities’ partner installers – Energy Emporium (Enfield) working with Hanover, ReVision Energy (Exeter) with Andover, New London, and Wilmot, and Milhouse with Orford, in New Hampshire; and in Vermont, Catamount Solar (Randolph) and Integrity Energy (East Bethel) working with Pomfret, Woodstock, Randolph, Brookfield, and Braintree.
As of December 1st, Orford is at Tier 4, with 10 people signed up to do solar totaling nearly 50kW, Orford has also had the highest percentage of people per populous asking for site visits then any other Solarize community.
Solarize Upper Valley is a program of Vital Communities, the non-profit based in White River Junction, and is aimed at making residential and small business solar photovoltaic (PV) energy more accessible across the region. The program teams up local volunteers with solar PV installers for a 15-week community outreach campaign to help residents go solar.
With resources and support from dedicated local volunteers and a trusted partner installer, Solarize makes it easy for homeowners to take the first step – requesting a free site visit. Through Solarize Upper Valley’s tiered pricing structure, the cost goes down for everyone as more people sign contracts to go solar with the community’s partner installer.
Vital Communities will coordinate a third round of the Solarize effort in mid-2015. For more information about the Solarize Upper Valley program and how to get involved, visit VitalCommunities.org/Solarize.