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Strength in numbers


September 7, 2016

If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking about solar energy for your home, and hearing about different ways of making it work as prices for solar panels have come down and incentives have increased. But as with so many great ideas, the prospect also raises some questions, both technical and financial. Is your home or business a suitable location, with enough uninterrupted sunlight for a significant portion of the day to generate power? Will you have to cut down trees? Is your roof strong enough and oriented to take advantage of the sun? Will you see significant energy cost savings? Assuming you get satisfactory answers to those questions, the next challenge is to identify a qualified installer and to research the many financial incentives and tax breaks available to make solar affordable, and make sure you can qualify.

“Solarize” programs are designed to help property owners answer these questions and access the best pricing and financial incentives. The Clean Energy States Alliance (www.cesa.org) credits the state of Oregon with the first program of this kind, launched in 2009, which employed bulk purchase strategies to reduce the costs of solar panels and installation services in order to boost the number of small-scale solar energy systems serving residential and small business property owners. The bulk purchase concept proved very successful and was quickly adopted by Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, South Carolina and other states, and in December 2014, Gov. Cuomo announced that a Solarize Program would be a component of the NY Sun Initiative and the comprehensive Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy for New York State. In 2015, New York’s solarize initiative included 900 projects resulting in 2,338 kW of installed solar power. This past February, New York set an ambitious goal of solarizing 150,000 additional homes and small businesses by 2020.

Catskill Mountainkeeper, through its RenewableNY initiative and partnerships with a number of local non-profits and community groups, has been instrumental in starting 10 solarize campaigns in the Southern Tier and the Mid-Hudson region, with more than 400 projects. Their Solarize Sullivan campaign was launched on July 28 with a kick-off event in Livingston Manor, followed by a well-attended event at the Narrowsburg Union on August 24. Additional community workshops are scheduled for SUNY Sullivan on September 14 and the Town of Highland on September 24.