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Northampton applies for Solarize Massachusetts program

— After enthusiastic responses in an online survey of city residents, Northampton officials are seeking to participate in a state program that offers lower prices for the installation of solar photovoltaic systems on homes and businesses.

A proposal was submitted this week to the Solarize Massachusetts program through Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Under the program, the city would work with state agencies to select one installer who would provide specific prices for solar panel installation in a bulk-buy format. Prices would drop as more residents and businesses sign contracts. At the end of September, the total number of kilowatts contracted will determine the price that purchasers will get on the installation.

Northampton Energy and Sustainability Officer Chris Mason said there will also be a lease option with no up-front costs, and the terms of the lease will offer lower prices as higher levels of photovoltaics are contracted.

Mason said the city expects a response from the Clean Energy Center by March 14.

An online survey was made available to the public Feb. 5, and subsequently promoted by two city councilors.

The survey consisted of three questions asking residents if they would be interested in learning more about the program, if they would participate by installing photovoltaic systems next year and if they would help promote the program.

Less than 18 hours after the survey went live, it received 250 responses, and soon after, that number had increased to 620, Mason said. He said most of those responses were enthusiastically in favor of the program.

“It was an overwhelmingly positive response, and we had some wonderful comments,” Mason said.

One respondent left a comment that read, “Solarize Northampton would be fantastic. ... Please make it happen.”

Another said, “Our house is already solar powered, but we would like additional panels so we could get an electric car powered by the sun.”

“Out of the total 620 respondents to the survey, a whopping 98 percent either indicated that they were interested in installing a PV system and/or wanted to help promote the program,” Mason said. “Only 14 stated no to both questions two and three.”

According to the program’s website, Solarize Massachusetts was developed as part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s initiative to install 250 megawatts of solar capacity in Massachusetts by 2017, and is aimed at driving mass adoption of small-scale solar electricity.

The Clean Energy Center and state Department of Energy Resources will conduct the program in two rounds during which a minimum of eight communities with be selected to participate.

Additional information about Solarize Mass can be found at www.solarizemass.com.

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