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Amherst residents show strong interest in home solar power arrays

Only a week into the launch of the Solarize Amherst program, more than 120 residents have submitted homeowner surveys to Northeast Solar, the Hatfield-based company that is involved in the project.

Greg Garrison, president of Northeast Solar, said both online submissions through its website and sign-ups from those who participated in the Jan. 30 “Solar 101” workshop indicates that there are many who want to be part of the program.

“We hope to do very well in that way,” Garrison said. “We’d like to put as much solar power in Amherst as possible.”

The Solarize Amherst program offers a 30 percent federal tax credit on the total cost the photovoltaic installation, a $1,000 state tax credit for the arrays and up to $4,250 in cash rebates from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Residents also get the benefits of aggregated buying.

Amherst was selected Dec. 2 as one of 15 communities to participate in the second round of Solarize Mass by the clean energy center and the Green Communities Division of the Department of Energy Resources.

Garrison said he is pleased that Northeast Solar, worked with Montague residents in 2012, was selected as the chosen installer.

“Amherst is a community that gets sustainability,” Garrison said.

In addition, it means more local spending.

In Northampton, which entered the program last year, more than 100 homeowners have contracted to install 715 kilowatts of solar energy.

Garrison said after a resident signs up, the company will set up a site visit. Home audits are expected to begin Feb. 12. Residents have until June 30 to decide if they want to participate.

The photovoltaics installed are designed to supply about 80 percent of a home’s power, Garrison said, with the idea that consumers will be responsible for reducing usage. All solar arrays are expected to be installed by June 2015.

Garrison said residents who are not able to participate due to factors at their properties will be invited to join a community solar site on Sunderland Road that is in the planning stages.

The next community meeting will be held at 5 p.m. March 10 in the Bangs Community Center.

Since Solarize Mass began four years ago, more than 1,250 residents and business owners in 31 communities have signed contracts to install about 9.4 megawatts of solar electricity.

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