Alternative Energy for People, Not Profit

 

Think Local

By Chris Hoffman

Unlike hydrofracking or wind farms, both of which claim to be “the answer” to growing energy needs, and both of which primarily benefit the energy companies rather than individual homeowners, solar energy has the potential to create electricity specifically for the use of individuals.

And Madison County is leading the way to do just that through a program called Solarize Madison, a community-focused renewable energy program promoting sustainable energy production to stabilize current and future energy costs.

Solarize Madison is a grassroots community effort to develop a community solar initiative to overcome the financial and logistical hurdles of installing solar power through high volume group purchasing.  Solarize Madison is sponsored by the Madison County Planning Department and the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board with support from the Renewable Energy Training Center at Morrisville State College.  The goal is to make solar energy available at an affordable cost, typically reduced by 70-80 percent because of NYS and Federal tax credits and incentives.

Enrollment in the program is now open and will close on September 30, 2012.  Solarize Madison is open to all Madison County homeowners, business owners, farms, institutions and municipalities.  Participants have the option of either purchasing or leasing a solar system.  The local installers chosen to work with this program are Arista Power, Inc., a Rochester-based supplier and designer of solar energy systems (for participants who purchase a solar system) and ETM Solar Works, out of Endicott, NY (for those interested in leasing a solar system). The lease is similar to a car lease, with no down payment, a term of 20 years, payments between $50 and $100 a month, and no penalty for generating excess electricity. ETM does the maintenance and at the end of the lease, you can re-up or buy it out.  If you sell your house, the lease may be transferred.

A typical residential roof-mounted solar PV system of 5.0kW costs between $5,000 and $6,000 dollars out of pocket after all rebates and incentives are applied.  A system of this size pays for itself in 7 to 9 years depending on site conditions and cost of electricity, producing up to 100% of your current electrical consumption. The first 15 participants will receive an additional $2,000 grant to further reduce the cost.  With current NYSERDA Rebates and Federal and NYS Tax Credits, participants typically pay for only 20-30% of the total system cost.

Madison County was one of nine communities selected by the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board for Climate Change Innovation Program grant funding. The grant provides up to $30,000 for a demonstration project, and Madison County Planning Department is offering fifteen $2,000 grants to homeowners to help offset the costs associated with installing a direct-own solar photovoltaic system.  Funding is on a first come first served basis.

Current sponsors of Solarize Madison include Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County in Morrisville; Citizens for Safe Energy (composed of Madison County residents who support best practices and public policies for natural resources development to ensure protection of property values, water and air quality, and the vitality of our local economy including business, tourism and agriculture); Friends of Rogers (a non-profit corporation composed of dedicated supporters of the Rogers Environmental Education Center); and WMCR-FM (Mix 106 radio, serving Madison County and the surrounding area for over 30 years and encouraging listeners to buy locally and support businesses in their local area to strengthen local communities and local economies).

An information session, hosted by Citizens for Safe Energy, will be held on Thursday, June 21, at 7 p.m. in the LGI Room of Hamilton High School.   Participants will have an opportunity to enroll in the program and pre-register for educational workshops.  More information can be found at http://www.solarizemadison.com. Additional sessions are scheduled for June 25, 6 p.m. (Oneida Public Library, 220 Broad St.), June 27, 7 p.m. ( Cornell Cooperative Extension, 100 Eaton St., Morrisville), and June 28, 7 p.m. (DeRuyter Public Library, 803 Utica St.).

This program is an excellent example of cooperation among organizations working for the benefit and betterment of local people.  It is not about an international corporate entity bullying its way into our lives for its own profit.  It will not destroy the environment, as will hydrofracking and wind farm installations.  This is a program we can all support with a clear conscience, and that support and participation will only engender more such programs.

 

 

 

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