Lincoln is one of three towns selected by the state to participate in Solarize Mass, a program where residents can get lower pricing from an approved vendor of residential rooftop solar installations.
Sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Council (MassCEC), Solarize lets residents of a community to enter into a competitive pricing agreement with a preferred solar installer following a vetting process. Representatives from Lincoln, Wayland, and Sudbury’s energy committees are working with MassCEC to promote solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar hot water for residential rooftop installation. This program helps consumers by keeping costs lower—historically, up to 21% lower—and ensuring that installations are of high quality. Lincoln participated in the same program five years ago.
“Following the success of the 2012 Solarize Lincoln program and building on the increasing momentum of greener energy among residents means the time is ripe for another round,” said Jennifer Haugh of the Green Energy Committee (GEC) in a press release. “We’ve seen so much interest and excitement among residents, and it’s clear our communities are ready.”
In addition to finding a vendor for solar photovoltaic, the three towns were also selected to engage in a pilot project, Solarize Plus, which will engage a separate vendor to offer solar hot water. Unlike solar photovoltaic, which converts direct sunlight to electricity, solar hot water transfers heat from the atmosphere directly to a hot water tank in the home. This technology can be more forgiving of shadier rooftops but may require ongoing investments and maintenance.
In the coming weeks, GEC members will work with MassCEC and the towns of Wayland and Sudbury to accept and review bids for both solar photovoltaic and solar hot water providers. The team expects to announce a winner and launch the program this summer.
Since its launch in 2011, 58 cities and towns have participated in Solarize Mass, resulting in more than 3,400 new small-scale installations at homes and businesses totaling 20.6 megawatts of solar capacity.
Bylaw change maximizes rooftop solar
Residents voted at Town Meeting in March to remove a zoning bylaw setback requirement on rooftops, which will create additional space for rooftop solar arrays. GEC member Jim Hutchinson, who presented the warrant article, said the measure could make the difference for some Lincoln residents looking to install solar on smaller rooftops.
“In one case, that [former] one-foot setback requirement reduced the amount of rooftop available by 44 percent,” he said. “Having more viable space makes the decision to go solar that much more feasible for homeowners.”
A related bylaw change increased the maximum allowed height for ground-mounted solar from 10 feet to 12. The Planning Board may also now grant waivers to the solar installation requirements on a case-by-case basis.
Survey results town’s interest in solar
A survey in late February indicated strong interest on the part of Lincolnites in exploring investments in solar options for residences. Of 127 respondents, 66.4 percent were “very interested” and 23 percent were “somewhat interested” in finding out more about group purchasing and favorable pricing of solar equipment, installation, and/or solar electricity, with the remaining 10.7 percent indicating “other”—which primarily consisted of current solar owners who are enthusiastic about their arrays.
From a question regarding the motivations for interest in solar, 90 percent of respondents indicated a concern for climate change and 65 percent were concerned about the global politics of fossil fuels, whereas 56.7 percent were interested in solar in terms of an economic investment.
Of 117 responses to a question regarding types of solar of interest to Lincoln residents, 53.8 percent were homeowners interested in solar arrays for their own rooftops, and 37.6 percent were interested in sharing a sunshine-harvesting somewhere else.
A question about additional energy-efficiency opportunities yielded 48.3 percent of respondents interested in monitoring electric loads in their homes to find phantom loads, with additional interest in having home energy assessments (HEAs) and learning more about electric vehicles.
Optimizing energy use
Solarize is one of several residential energy programs offered by the GEC. Residents are urged to consider ways of conserving energy in their homes first before investing in the supply side, according to Lincoln Energy Challenge coordinator Sue Klem.
“Solar PVs are a great way to minimize your carbon footprint, but you’ll want to optimize your home for energy efficiency first,” she said. “The best way to find out how to make your home as efficient as possible is to get a home energy assessment” or HEA.
Massachusetts has one of the nation’s top statewide energy-efficiency programs in partnership with MassSave, a nonprofit funded through utility fees. Lincoln works with a company called HomeWorks Energy to perform no-cost HEAs, where an energy auditor comes to check a residence for air leaks, proper insulation, lighting, and other sources of inefficiency. They can replace incandescent bulbs with free LED light bulbs, leave free “smart” power strips, and perform on-the-spot air sealing for drafty homes. HEA auditors can also offer recommendations for energy-efficiency improvements, often supported by tax incentives.
For more information on obtaining a no-cost HEA, visit www.lincolnenergychallenge.org or call 781-305-3319.