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Solarize Sullivan

By Tanya Khotin
August 10, 2016

A couple of weeks ago at the Catskill Brewery in Livingston Manor, the new “Solarize Sullivan” campaign was launched to make it easier and more affordable for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels. I’m very pleased and proud to be part of this innovative, citizen-led effort as a way to help our community and our planet.

Most people know that ramping up the amount of sun-generated energy is critical to addressing climate change. And the new jobs associated with solarizing our communities are vital to our economy. However, there are two big hurdles with solar: its cost (real and perceived) and getting information you can understand and trust. Solarize Sullivan is tackling both.

First, on costs: The campaign is negotiating bulk rates for those who join the program. Solar is already priced at similar levels to traditional energy, but this campaign ensures that rates will be even cheaper than what each of us could do on our own. No less important is the issue of understanding and trusting the information around solar. With new technology, you often feel like you’re being “sold” something—it’s made to sound so simple! But face it—it’s not. Shiny objects installed on your roof magically transform the sun’s rays into energy, and you’re meant to believe that you’ll pay less for this than sticking with what you’ve always done, and that you won’t have to worry about maintenance, repair, or losing access to electricity?

To address this hurdle, Solarize Sullivan has conducted a thorough vetting process of solar installers to identify those who meet key criteria around experience, reliability, price, reputation and commitment to our community. Further, the campaign has developed user-friendly and transparent educational materials. Finally, the campaign is organizing open houses at solarized homes to help people reach a level of comfort necessary to join the program.

A little background on Solarize Sullivan: This group is a project of our local nonprofit environmental organization, Catskill Mountainkeeper, and funded by a grant from New York State’s energy authority, NYSERDA. Its only agenda is sustainable economic development in the region by helping as many community members as possible to painlessly and profitably transition their electricity source to solar. And critically, as long-time residents of our county, the staff and volunteers at Solarize Sullivan understand that our community needs to see economic benefits to join this program—in addition to knowing that our homes will be reducing climate and air pollution.