Is Solar Energy in Your Future?
This environmentally friendly column is brought to you by West Roxbury Saves Energy, a community-based organization committed to spreading the word that individuals can make positive choices that save money as well as the planet.
OK, so West Roxbury isn’t southern California. We have lots of overcast days. Most winters, there’s snow on the roof for at least a few weeks and rain for a few more weeks. Solar energy isn’t for me, you’re thinking.
But think again, and consider this: we have much more sun than Germany, yet Germany has one of the highest solar adoption rates in the world.
At an informative presentation this month at the Roche Family Community Center sponsored by Solarize Mass—Boston, West Roxbury residents heard plenty of good reasons to consider saving energy and money by going solar.
Adam Korngold — owner of Waves Car Wash and a winner of West Roxbury Saves Energy’s Green Business Award — told the gathering he generates 20% of his electricity needs and saves $500 a month by getting part of his power from solar panels. “Solar energy is real. It’s not alchemy. It works,” he said. “The city made it very easy [to go solar]. We took vacant real estate [the carwash roof] and turned it into a power plant.” (You can learn more about Waves’ “green” initiatives on their website, waveswash.com/green.)
Solarize Mass—Boston is a community initiative of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Green Communities Division of the MA Department of Energy Resources, in partnership with the City of Boston. The program allows qualified homeowners to install solar systems with little or no upfront cost, and a monthly solar payment that can be less than what you are currently paying for electricity. It’s available to residents, businesses, and non-profits in Boston.
Of course, not every home and business will be right for solar. According to Corey Bullock of SolarCity, the two biggest factors are the amount of sunlight you get throughout the day (a south-facing roof is ideal) and the amount of open roof space. Those mighty oak trees in the back yard provide clean air, cool summer shade, and lots of squirrel food, but they may be a solar power deal breaker. Solarize Mass—Boston can give you a quick assessment by looking at satellite images of your property.
If your roof looks like a good candidate, you can schedule a free consultation with SolarCity (solarcity.com), the company under contract with Solarize Mass—Boston to provide complete design, installation, and maintenance service for the program. Their experts will survey your site to evaluate if a solar power system will fit your home’s architecture and meet your energy needs. If you decide to proceed, SolarCity offers several programs ranging from little or no upfront cost to the property owner and a higher rate per kilowatt (but still less than conventional power) to selling a complete system to the homeowner, resulting in a much lower cost per kilowatt over the 20-year life of the system. SolarCity offers panels manufactured in China and the United States (the latter for a slightly higher cost).
One more thing: because the program factors in a community discount, the more of your neighbors who participate, the less you pay. So tell your friends. But don’t wait; the offer is only good through September 30, 2012.
To sign up for a free solar consultation, visit renewboston.org/solar or call 855-334-SOLAR. Your house just might turn out to be a clean-energy power plant.
WRSE member Gretchen O'Neill wrote this article.