Solarize Mass shines on Whately

WHATELY — Whately is among the latest communities selected for the next round of a state program that encourages installation of small-scale solar electric systems through group purchasing by homes and businesses.

The three-year-old program to date has helped 1,250 homeowners and small businesses in 31 communities install about 9.4 megawatts of solar electricity. Whately has joined Chesterfield and Williamsburg in a joint partnership.

“It’s clearly an exciting time in solar energy in Massachusetts,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan said during a press conference held at Atkins Farms Country Market in Amherst, which “solarized” two years ago.

After being selected, communities led by a team of volunteers choose an installer and provide specific prices for the installation of solar panels. The program can lower the cost of installing solar systems and save customers money on their electricity bills, depending on how many residents and businesses contract for solar energy. Pricing through the program is tiered based on how many people sign up, so that installation costs decrease as contracted kilowatt hours increase.

Solarize Mass is a partnership among the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the state Department of Energy Resources Green Communities Division, local officials and community volunteers. Each year, the state selects communities to participate in the program.

Other western Massachusetts communities that have participated in the program since 2010 included Montague.

State environmental officials said Massachusetts now has 361 megawatts of power generated by solar installations.

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