Solarize Mass is returning to Lincoln, thanks to an initiative of the Green Energy Committee in collaboration with the Towns of Sudbury and Wayland, sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Council (MassCEC). The Baker-Polito Administration made an announcement of selected participating communities in Newburyport on April 19.
Solarize enables residents of a community to enter into a competitive pricing agreement with a preferred solar installer following a vetting process. Representatives from Lincoln, Wayland, and Sudbury’s energy committees are working with MassCEC to promote solar photovoltaic and solar hot water for residential rooftop installation. This program helps consumers by keeping costs lower — historically, up to 21% lower — and ensuring that installations are of high quality.
“Following the success of the 2012 Solarize Lincoln program and building on the increasing momentum of greener energy among residents means the time is ripe for another round,” said Green Energy Committee member Jennifer Haugh. “We’ve seen so much interest and excitement among residents, and it’s clear our communities are ready.”
In addition to finding a vendor for solar photovoltaic, the three towns were also selected to initiate a pilot project, Solarize Plus, which will likely engage a separate vendor to offer solar hot water. Unlike solar photovoltaic, which converts direct sunlight to electricity, solar hot water transfers heat from the atmosphere directly to a hot water tank in your home. This technology can be more forgiving of shadier rooftops, but may require ongoing investments and maintenance.
In the coming weeks, Lincoln Green Energy Committee members will work with MassCEC and the Towns of Wayland and Sudbury to accept and review bids for both solar photovoltaic and solar hot water providers. The team expects to announce a winner and launch the program in the summertime.
“Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in clean energy solutions, propelled by a business climate that encourages and enables new innovative technologies,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Solarize Mass Program and the Mass Solar Connect Program are two great examples of our Administration working with communities and nonprofits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the Commonwealth, while simultaneously bringing energy costs down for the people of Massachusetts.”
Since its launch in 2011, 58 cities and towns have participated in the Solarize Mass Program, resulting in more than 3,400 new small-scale installations at homes and businesses totaling 20.6 megawatts of solar capacity.
Bylaw change maximizes rooftop solar
At Lincoln’s Town Meeting on March 25, a proposed zoning bylaw change passed by voice vote to remove a setback provision on rooftops, which will enable additional space for rooftop solar arrays. Green Energy Committee member Jim Hutchinson, who presented the warrant article, indicated that the measure could make the difference for some Lincoln residents looking to install solar on smaller rooftops.
“In one case, that one-foot setback requirement reduced the amount of rooftop available by 44%,” said Hutchinson. “Having more viable space makes the decision to go solar that much more feasible for homeowners.”
A related bylaw change increased the maximum allowed height for ground-mounted solar from 10 feet to 12. The Planning Board may also now grant waivers to the solar installation requirements on a case-by-case basis.
Survey results show strong interest in solar
A survey in late February indicated strong interest on the part of Lincolnites in exploring investments in solar options for residences. Of 127 respondents, 66.4% were “very interested” and 23% were “somewhat interested” in finding out more about group purchasing and favorable pricing of solar equipment, installation, and/or solar electricity, with the remaining 10.7% indicating “other”—which primarily consisted of current solar owners who are enthusiastic about their arrays.
From a question regarding the motivations for interest in solar, 90% of respondents indicated a concern for climate change, and 65% were concerned about the global politics of fossil fuels, whereas 56.7% were interested in solar in terms of an economic investment.
Of 117 responses to a question regarding types of solar of interest to Lincoln residents, 53.8% (63) were homeowners interested in solar arrays for their own rooftops, and 37.6% were interested in sharing an array harvesting sunshine somewhere else.
A question about additional energy-efficiency opportunities yielded 48.3% of respondents interested in monitoring electric loads in their homes to find phantom loads, with additional interest in having home energy assessments (HEAs) and learning more about electric vehicles.
Solarize is one of several residential energy programs of the Lincoln Green Energy Committee. Residents are urged to consider ways of conserving energy in their homes first before investing in the supply side, according to Lincoln Energy Challenge coordinator Sue Klem.
“Solar PVs are a great way to minimize your carbon footprint, but you’ll want to optimize your home for energy efficiency first,” she said. “The best way to find out how to make your home as efficient as possible is to get a home energy assessment.”
A home energy assessment, or HEA, is when an energy auditor comes to check a residence for air leaks, proper insulation, lighting, and other sources of inefficiency.
Massachusetts has one of the nation’s top statewide energy-efficiency programs in partnership with Mass Save, a nonprofit funded through utility fees. Lincoln works with a company called HomeWorks Energy to perform no-cost HEAs, which can yield free LED light bulbs, smart power strips, and on-the-spot air sealing for drafty homes. HEA auditors can also offer recommendations for energy-efficiency improvements, often supported by tax incentives.
“Massachusetts is a truly incredible state when it comes to providing financing and support for homeowners to lower their energy bills and cut down on the use of fossil fuels,” Klem said. “We are very lucky to have these opportunities.”
For more information on obtaining a no-cost home energy assessment, visit www.lincolnenergychallenge.org or call 781-305-3319.
About the Lincoln Green Energy Committee
Formed in 2009 and designated as a Massachusetts Green Community in 2010, the Lincoln Green Energy Committee is dedicated to promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies for the town and its residents. More information can be found at www.lincolngreenenergy.org. Questions regarding Solarize Lincoln can be sent to SolarizeLincoln@gmail.com.
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