Dartmouth Solar Challenge kicks off at Town Hall

April 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

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DARTMOUTH — Select Board member Lara Stone hosted the SouthCoast Energy Challenge’s kick-off reception for its newest initiative at Dartmouth Town Hall on a Wednesday night. About 25 residents turned out to hear about the Dartmouth Solar Challenge, aimed at promoting residential solar energy systems in town.

The new program is a special time-limited awareness campaign designed to find and help 50 or more Dartmouth homeowners get solar panels put on their roofs or in their yards by the end of July. Full details on free home solar assessments, incentives and rebates for installing solar panels, and other information is available at the website: www.DartmouthSolarChallenge.org or by calling (888) 56-SOLAR.

Ms. Stone started the event with a brief recap of the town’s continuing municipal commitment to sustainability programs, gradual shift to hybrid vehicles, and encouragement of clean, alternative energy sources in Dartmouth. An alternative energy committee initially proposed a municipal wind turbine project, but public resistance turned the town’s focus to less-controversial solar power sources.

Dartmouth now has two power purchase agreements with solar energy providers, and has seen three other commercial projects sited in town as well. “We’re the number one solar power producer in the state, with 9.3 megawatts of solar capacity, which puts us even before Boston in terms of production,” Ms. Stone noted.

Those five commercial solar projects will be generating about $723,000 per year in property taxes for the town when the last one is finished, she indicated. The town is also saving about 66 percent on its streetlight costs since new energy-efficient LED lighting was installed all across town.

Now, the time has come to focus on smaller, residential solar arrays that can help make Dartmouth a leader in residential production, too, Ms. Stone suggested.

SouthCoast Energy Challenge Assistant Director Karen Steward said Dartmouth’s track record with that program prompted the roll-out of the new solar initiative. More than 9,000 residents throughout the region’s 27 towns have taken the “energy challenge” for free home assessments, weatherization and conservation tips, and other assistance. Last year, those challenge “members” included about 400 Dartmouth residents, including Ms. Stone, who had her property surveyed for solar and found it lacked sufficient southern exposure.

With the Dartmouth Solar Challenge, the organization has partnered with RGS Energy, formerly known as Real Good Solar, which has a 35-year track record in the industry, and set an optimistic goal of finding 50 or more Dartmouth homes suitable for small scale solar arrays, Ms. Stewart said. An April 27 home tour of solar homes in town is planned, and residents can reserve a seat on the tour bus by visiting the web site.

The web site also features information on incentives, rebates, and financing options, plus updates on the new technology that make residential solar systems more affordable than they once were. Free site assessments are the first step to be taken to find out if your property is a good site for solar energy.

The solar challenge brochure handed out on kick-off night contained several Dartmouth “Solar Success Stories” the organization is hoping to duplicate in the coming months.

One was the story of the Kaput family’s decision to go solar. “When we factored in the tax rebate and the SREC incentives here in Massachusetts, we knew that installing solar would save us money and meet our need for an efficient, low-impact home,” homeowner Noah Kaput is quoted as saying. “RGS did a great job simplifying the paperwork and making sure we had a clear understanding of our system.”


Dartmouth Solar Challenge: Solar 101 Workshop:

Wed. 4/16, 6 – 7:30pm; Southworth Library. Call with questions: (508) 910-1871. Learn about the new Town endorsed program to educate residents on the benefits of solar. Solar basics, pricing, incentives, and savings.

Dartmouth Solar Home Tour:

Sun. 4/27, 1-4pm. RSVP: 508-910-1871, space limited.

Meet homeowners and tour at least 8 home solar systems in Dartmouth. Solar technicians on hand to answer questions.

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