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Whately offers solar program to residents

WHATELY — The town is teaming up with Chesterfield and Williamsburg to reduce electric costs for their residents and greenhouse gas emissions in the environment.

The three towns have been selected to participate in the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Solarize Mass. program.

Through incentives, rebates and group purchasing, the program reduces the cost of installing solar photovoltaic panels on residences and businesses.

“It’s a great way for people to generate electricity and reduce their electric bill and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Whately Selectman and solar coach Paul Newlin.

Whately is among the first 10 percent of towns in the state to receive a Solarize Massachusetts grant. It will join other solarize towns like Montague, Northampton, Adams, Salem and Great Barrington.

The deadline to sign up for the program is June 30, in which residents can get free non-obligation site assessment by the installer to determine if their homes are suitable for a PV system.

To participate, the home or business must get or have had a free energy assessment from Mass Save in the last five years.

Solarize Energy is a partnership of the state Clean Energy Center, the Department of Energy Resources Green Communities Division, the Board of Selectmen and Energy Committee.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions along with energy bills for townspeople is near and dear to the hearts of the selectmen.

Apart from their public roles, Newlin teaches renewable energy technology and environmental economics at Smith College and the University of Massachusetts. Selectman Joyce Palmer Fortune teaches physics at Smith College and owns one of the first houses in Whately to install a solar system. Selectman Jonathan Edwards markets renewable energy.

After a bidding process, the town has picked RGS Energy, formerly Real Goods Solar, as the installer for the PV systems.

The company is one of the oldest and largest clean energy providers in the country. It was the installer for three Solarize Mass towns last year.

The three towns have partnered to increase the potential for the number of installations and cost savings for residents. By combining the three towns’ populations, which total about 5,400 people, the possibility for participating in the program and reducing costs increases rather than if the towns tried to do it alone.

“The three towns got together because we’re all small,” Newlin said. “If we can generate a market from the three towns, the installer is more willing to give a discount. We pool the three towns to get a better price for residents.”

The program is designed is lower costs through bulk purchasing. If enough people sign up, the price will continue to decrease for everyone in the program.

Bulk purchasing allows the installer — RGS Energy — to save on the cost of materials. These reductions in cost are passed directly to Solarize Mass. participants, and as higher tiers are reached as more people sign up, the price drops for everyone.

There are two ways people can participate. People can either buy the PV system directly up front or lease the system.

Purchasing the system yields the greatest long-term savings by allowing people to receive federal and state tax credits and to sell solar renewable energy certificates. The state requires utilities to purchase a certain amount of their electricity from renewable energy resources. Instead of installing the solar systems themselves, they purchase the SRECs from private and public systems.

While the up-front cost is about $18,000, the system would pay for itself in five to seven years through the rebates and tax credits, at which point people would get free electricity.

The second option is to lease the system. There is no up-front cost. RGS Energy would be responsible for owning, installing and maintaining the system. The homeowner would then just need to buy the electricity from RGS Energy at a low, fixed rate. It results in a reduced energy bills for the life of the system, which is typically about 30 years, Newlin explained.

For more information, visit rgsenergy.com/solarizewhately or call 888-567-6527.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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