Solarize began as an innovative program out of the City of Portland and has grown into a movement across the country. The program helps members of a community organize around the common goal of installing solar and simplifies the process of deciding who to hire for the installation, what to budget, and where to start. Interested neighbors come together to choose a contractor, purchase and install solar as a community, and save significant costs as a result of bulk purchasing of solar electric panels. This tried and tested model has successfully expanded residential solar markets in states from Washington to Massachusetts.
The Beyond Solarize panel Tuesday morning at WREF 2012 in Denver, CO was put together as part of the Energy Access track. Five representatives from across the country shared program successes and insights into how they had adopted the Solarize model in their city. Most of the cities had utilized the program to reduce the cost of solar PV panels, but programs in Minnesota and Oregon are also using the program for solar thermal technologies.
Though it is true that these programs are most successful when they are paired with generous local incentives and the value proposition for solar is already very attractive, the members of the panel insisted that this model could also work in areas with inexpensive electricity and little or no extra incentives available beyond the 30% federal tax credit.
Several of the panelists made the point that the real value of the program does not lie in the reduction of costs, though the program has achieved this in most areas. The program works because it reduces fear of an unknown technology and simplifies the process from beginning to end for the consumer. It also taps into community spirit and pride. To achieve large scale results, the program fosters a sales mentality among neighbors and creates a set time frame that motivates consumers to act.
As solar prices continue to drop and cost of installed solar approaches grid parity, Solarize is set to continue to be a force for motivating communities to install solar on a mass scale. For example, this program is set to launch in 17 communities in Massachusetts, with the realistic potential of an additional 8-10,000 solar projects expected this year.
A big thanks to Lee L. Rahr from Portland’s Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, Jessie Denver from Group Energy, Elizabeth Kennedy from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Clare Carlson from Solar Oregon, Alexandra Sawyer from NW Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (SEED), and Laura Cine from the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society for sharing their experiences and insights!
This fall ASES will hold our annual National Solar Tour where you can see solar in action in communities all across the country.