110 Northampton households join state solar energy program

November 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

NORTHAMPTON – Taking advantage of a state program, Northampton has gone solar in a big way, and local officials are hoping to build on that success.

Earlier this year, the city was selected as one of 10 communities to participate in Solarize Massachusetts, a program stemming from a partnership between the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Green Communities Division of the state Department of Energy Resources. Northampton was in the third round of participants, with other groups of communities selected in 2011 and 2012.

According to Chris Mason, the city’s energy and sustainability officer, 110 local households signed up for the program to have solar panels installed, adding a whopping 715 kilowatts to Northampton’s supply of clean power.

That total nearly tripled the 250 kilowatt threshold set by the state to afford communities the lowest possible prices. Statewide, 551 households signed contracts to install solar electricity in 2013 as part of the program.

“Whoa, is that a healthy number!” said Mason.

Enthusiasm for the program put Northampton among the top communities in both number of households and kilowatts, Mason said. More than 40 of the new solar systems are already in place, he said, and he expects the remainder to be installed in the next few months.

“Solar is becoming the normal way to produce power for your home in this city,” he said.

Although the program offers incentives and rebates that significantly lower the price, it was complicated for homeowners to figure the cost of the solar arrays. The equipment normally costs about $17,000, installed, Mason said. However, most new solar customers can expects a payback period of four or five years.

Even though the Solarize program ended in October, solar energy is becoming more and more of a bargain, according to Mason. He said customers can get prices equivalent or better than what Solarize households paid in 2011 without being in a Solarize program.

“The cost keeps dropping,” he said.

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