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Lockport launches solar energy campaign

Solar Liberty booth

(image courtesy: Connor Hoffman)
Connor Hoffman
June 21, 2018

The city of Lockport and its partners officially launched the Solarize Lockport campaign on Thursday.

The campaign is part of the Solarize Buffalo Niagara initiative, which aims to make it easier and cheaper for residents and business owners to purchase solar energy systems.

“I think this is a great opportunity for us to educate the public about clean energy and the possibility of solar energy being something they may want to consider,” Mayor Anne McCaffrey said.

Lockport waived the $75 permit fee for solar array installations at the Common Council meeting this week. Solar Liberty was chosen as the official company for the city to work with.

“That’s a significant incentive,” McCaffrey said.

UB Regional Institute Clean Energy Coordinator Jason Kulaszewski said residents are welcome to use other solar energy installers, but noted they would not be able to receive the $75 permit fee waiver.

There are also state and federal tax credits that cover about 55 percent of the total installation cost, after tax filings.

Kulaszewski said part of the campaign is to dispel certain myths people may believe about solar energy. One example he cited was the belief that the Western New York area is not a practical environment for solar energy.

“We actually have great sun. The fact that we have a temperate climate helps keep panels cooler, like any electronic device if it gets too hot it doesn’t perform. So with our cooler spring, fall, sometimes even summer can be a little bit cooler if breezes are coming off the river, and the lakes help cool the system and keep it running more efficiently,” he said. “As opposed to like in the Southwest, where you are in a desert, it’s dry heat. So your system has a higher likelihood to heat up and not perform as well.”

Some city residents, like Chief Building Inspector Jason Dool who installed solar arrays about three years ago, have already seen their energy bills significantly cut down.

“I have not had an electric bill since the day they put them in,” and the only cost was a $16 delivery charge, Dool said.

As previously reported, Greater Lockport Development Corp. CEO/President Brian Smith said in communities that have launched the campaign, homeowners have paid installation rates of $2.50 per watt, with residents generally requiring around 6,000 to 7,000 watts. With various additions that some homeowners pay, the average cost is closer to $2.60 or $2.65 per watt.

A solar array system typically costs around $15,000 to $20,000.

The Solarize Lockport campaign plans to have booths set up at certain places and events, but Kulaszewski said they haven’t finalized the locations yet.

Ryan Calalesina, a senior solar consultant, said solar energy is created by the panels sending energy directly into the house for immediate use.

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Reporter Tim Fenster contributed to this report.