ADAMS, Mass. — The town is making clear efforts to encourage its residents to utilize solar energy in the near future and has already received hundreds of positive responses.
On Monday, the state announced the inclusion of Adams in the fourth phase of Solarize Mass — its solar incentive program for local home and business owners.
The Solarize Adams program looks to increase the adoption of small-scale, solar electricity systems through a grass-roots educational campaign, driven mainly by Adams volunteers.
Adams joins Great Barrington and Egremont as three newly-designated Solarize communities in Berkshire County. The statewide program is part of an initiative created by Gov. Deval Patrick to be more energy efficient, including a series of programs to develop and cultivate a robust solar marketplace, according to state representatives.
Matt Karkley of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center said the town will be granted $2,500 worth of marketing materials, including printed posters, lawn signs and technical consulting. Adams' solar team will take part in information forums and meetings during which they will learn the basics of solar electricity, understand the contracts that are available to residents and the overall environmental and economic benefits of participating in the program.
Outside of this aid, it is up to the town's team of volunteers to communicate the advantages of solar energy in order to promote participation by residents. The hope is that as more residents in Adams and throughout the state sign contracts to use solar power, the prices for these technologies will drop, based on market demands.
Part of its application process was for the town to identify a "solar coach," municipal representative and a group of volunteers as well as demonstrate a high level of interest from the community in utilizing solar energy.
With help from the Community Development office, Town Administrator Jonathan Butler and Selectmen Joe Nowak and Michael Ouellette will head the team of volunteers, along with resident Dianne Cutillo, who is designated as the solar coach.
Cutillo was unavailable for comment, though residents can expect to see her campaigning at town events or even closer to home. A publicist and former journalist, she is currently senior director of public affairs at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
"A solar coach is essentially a head volunteer in town. They, kind of, organize the other volunteers in the community or are out manning tables at town events or going door-to-door, doing all of the outreach aspect for the program... to make sure the people and materials are where they need to be. It's quite an intensive process," Karkley said.
Though it is not a clear indicator as to how many residents will participate in the Solarize program, Butler said he received an "overwhelming" response to the program during the application process.
"We had over 200 people who submitted response forms saying they would be interested in participating in the program," Butler said. "The average community that is actually part of Solarize Mass right now only has between 25-50 active contracts."
In the coming weeks, the town must select a single installer for the community, which will offer a five-tiered pricing structure in which the savings will increase for everyone involved as more contracts are signed.
Home and business owners interested in participating can either purchase the solar electricity systems directly or enter into a lease or power-purchase agreement (PPA) with the installer, according to the MassCEC website: "Under a lease or PPA, the installer will own, operate and maintain the system, while the home or business owner agrees to purchase the power generated by the system at an agreed-upon rate."
During a Board of Selectmen meeting on Wednesday, Butler said a request for proposals from potential energy installers will be released in December. An external review certification team will then be created to select the best installer.
Interested residents can expect to learn more about how to be directly participate in Solarize Adams in February or March.
"It is a great opportunity for Adams to continue to move forward towards being more energy independent and conscious of our environmental footprint," Butler said.
This announcement coincides with the development of a public solar panel project in the town of Adams; the condemnation by select residents of a private development proposal in a residential neighborhood; and the subsequent creation of a bylaw that the town is drafting to eventually help govern new, future large-scale projects.
In contrast, the Solarize Mass program focuses exclusively on the installation of small-scale, residential solar projects.
The Solarize Massachusetts program is run by the Clean Energy Center and state Department of Energy Resources and is designed to educate residents about the benefits of solar technology. Residents will be encouraged to buy solar technologies, thereby driving down its costs as more home and business owners in town sign up, according to state representatives. It will positively impact the local economy, according to state representatives, in part because it will create more jobs throughout the commonwealth.
Since 2011, the state has designated 46 municipalities throughout the commonwealth as Solarize communities and has been responsible for more than 1,250 solar installations across the state totaling 9.4 megawatts of electricity capacity. Williamstown and Lenox were previously admitted into the program.