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Guest post and photos by Solarize CT
November 2, 2012

FAIRFIELD, CONNECTICUT — When Stephanie Weiner, CEO of New England Smart Energy Group, found out that her town was selected to participate in the Solarize Connecticut pilot program, she could not have been more excited by the opportunity to help engage the rest of her local community in solar.

Stephanie immediately got on board, finding ways to communicate the benefits of the special discount solar program to friends, neighbors, and other Fairfield residents. “This is exactly the kind of program that will help us expand solar in our community and offer an excellent investment opportunity for our residents,” Stephanie said. “By tabling at local events, hosting Solarize Fairfield Workshops at the library, and putting up yard signs across town, we are helping Fairfield residents understand all that this program has to offer.”

Fairfield joined Durham, Portland, and Westport as the four pilot towns to launch Solarize Connecticut in partnership with the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), The John Merck Fund, and SmartPower. The goal of the residential solar program is to bring together homeowners across a community to offer deep discounted prices for residential solar power.

Solarize does this by addressing many of the traditional barriers that homeowners face in going solar, the main one being high out-of-pocket costs. The program’s tiered pricing structure means that the total cost of solar comes down as the number of residents who sign up increases. In addition to this pricing structure, each town assumes responsibility for outreach, thereby reducing the marketing costs incurred by the installer. By selecting a preferred installer to do all installations for one community, the price has the potential to be substantially discounted to all participants. The program’s end date also requires and encourages homeowners to sign up if they want to take advantage of the program’s limited time discounts.

The four towns participating in the first phase of the Solarize Connecticut program were selected based on an ability to execute an effective outreach and community-based campaign. Eight weeks into the program, the towns have helped the program generate more than 40 signed solar contracts. Each of these signed contracts represents one more home reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and reducing its environmental impact. A Solarize Scoreboard on the program Web site breaks these contracts down by town and kW.

Durham currently leads the four towns in terms of signed solar contracts, thanks in large part to their effective grassroots marketing strategy. The town engaged the local High School’s Eco Club to build a Solarize Durham Thermometer that reflects the growth in town solar signups since the Solarize program began. The thermometer was put on display at the Town Green for the Durham Fair.

In addition, Durham hosted an information night welcoming local residents to learn more about the program and ask the town’s selected solar installer, BeFree Solar, any questions about the process of installing solar. The other three pilot towns have been just as proactive in hosting and tabling at a variety of events, all helping to drive solar signups and reduce the cost.

“This program builds on our efforts to drive down costs in the residential PV market here in Connecticut,” said Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of CEFIA. “Through our Clean Energy Communities, we will aggregate customer demand and continue to work toward developing a sustainable market that attracts private capital investment.”

The best practices and lessons learned from the four pilot towns will soon be applied to a second phase of the program in early 2013. Similarly modeled programs in Oregon and Massachusetts have also successfully delivered a lower cost to consumers. For more information about how you can reduce your environmental impact and save on solar, visit Sierra Club Green Home’s Solar Center.

For related articles, see:
Community Solar: Bringing People Together for Clean Energy
Clean, Renewable Energy Could Power U.S. by 2050
Sunny Forecast for Solar Power
Video: Affordable Solar Panels Can Save You Money

About Solarize CT: Solarize Connecticut (CT) is a program sponsored by the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) in partnership with SmartPower and The John Merck Fund with the goal of increasing residential solar power by making it more affordable throughout Connecticut and New England.  For more information about Solarize CT, click here.

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.

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