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The Clock is Ticking for Solarize Mendon

The clock is ticking for Mendon property owners, who want to install photovoltaic (PV) solar systems on their properties. With the announcement at the June 11 Solarize Mendon meeting that SolarFlair Energy Inc. of Framingham is the town's solar installer, residents have until September 30 to sign a contract that will reduce the cost of a PV installation on their property by about 43 percent.

The savings are the result of rebates, tax incentives and group discounting that are available to Mendon residents since the town is one of the 17 Massachusetts communities chosen to participate in the 2012 Solarize Massachusetts program in partnership with the Mass Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Department of Energy. Solarize communities lower the cost of installing PV systems through bulk pricing and hiring one contractor to handle all the installations in a town. The project is a tiered system with volume price breaks, so the more people, who sign-on, the more affordable the program will be.

According to Daniel Greenwood, SolarFlair vice president and manager of business development, the average cost of PV installation in Massachusetts is $5.23 per watt. Mendon's basic installation price through the Solarize program will be $3.69 per watt. Greenwood said that is a Tier 1 price for one to five installations. As more residents sign up the cost will drop to a Tier 5 price of $3.39 per watt for 50 or more Mendon installations.

Greenwood explained that the cost of an average 5.39-kilowatt installation is $19,870. Federal and state tax incentives and rebates lower that cost to $11,289. Additional savings from net metering, or feeding back electricity to National Grid, and the annual sale of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) result in a two to four year payback of the installation cost. SREC is a Massachusetts program designed to promote the solar industry by having utility companies offset their use of fossil fuels to generate power by purchasing alternative energy credits. Each 1,000 watts generated with PV equals one SREC, which is sold at auction through an aggregator for a price of $285 to $550 per year minus a handling fee. The SREC program will last for a decade.

Greenwood noted the $19,870 price is for the average installation; options such as using multiple roofs for a PV display, tilt racking to hold the panels or reinforcing the rafters among others would add to the cost, as would various upgrades such as web-based monitoring of the system.

Property owners typically pay for the installation one of three ways—out-of-pocket, through an equity loan or a lease arrangement. Under the lease arrangement, a company pays for the installation, which it owns and then sells back electricity to the property owner at a reduced rate. The current reduced rate for electricity under a lease arrangement is expected to be about .065 cents for Tier 1 down to a low of .05 cents under Tier 5 in Mendon. The current average price for electricity in Massachusetts is .15 cents.

Greenwood said residents interested in the program should contact SolarFlair as soon as possible for a free site assessment to see if their property is properly sited for a PV installation. The local sales person is Garrett Sprague who can be reached at 508-332-0338, garrett@solarflair.com or www.solarflair.com. Property owners will also need to sign up for an energy audit with MASS Save in order to qualify for PV installation rebates. If the site is acceptable and property owners decide to go forward with project a $2,000 down payment will be required when the contract is signed. Property owners who enter a lease agreement will not have to come up with a down payment.

The entire assessment - installation process is expected to take 15 weeks to complete. SolarFlair handles all the needed paperwork, offering property owners a "turn-key" project. Greenwood added SolarFlair, which was founded in 2006 by president, Mark Arner in Hopkinton, warranties its workmanship for 10 years. The solar panels have a 25-year warranty while the inverter needed to convert the electricity has a 10-year warranty and will need to be replaced once during the life of the system, which is expected to be 25 to 30 years. The replacement cost is $1,000 to $4,000.

The Mendon Solarize program will end September 30. To learn more about the program, contact Carolyn Barthel, Mendon Community Solar Coach at SolarizeMendon@gmail.com or 508-473-3305. To learn more about the Solarize Massachusetts program, visit www.SolarizeMass.com, call 617-315-9306 or tweet #SolarizeMass.




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