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National Grid offers Fruit Belt residents free solar panels through pilot program

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- National Grid has its eyes on the rooftops in the Fruit Belt. It’s asking about 100 residents to let them install solar panels for free.

“To test the impact of a concentration of what’s largely residential rooftop solar on our system,” said Steve Brady, National Grid’s spokesperson.

He said they picked the Fruit Belt because all of the homes are served off of the same line from the same substation.

“The other piece really is, see what the interest is in what would otherwise be an under-served neighborhood,” said Brady. “An urban, dense, neighborhood where typically you wouldn’t see a concentration of solar.”

The project is part of New York State’s energy initiative called Reforming Energy Vision, and was approved by the state last year. National Grid is partnering with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on the project.

Brady told News 4 residents who are interested would have a required home inspection to make sure the roof faces the right direction and the roof can withstand the weight of the panels.

If it meets the requirements, Solar Liberty will install the panels.

“We are responsible for the maintenance for the life of the program,” said Brady. “At the end of the program they would own the panels.”

National Grid said once they have all of the solar panels installed it will take about two to three years to collect the data.

“We’re going to capture that energy before the meter so it’s a little different than what you’d see in an individual home situation,” said Brady.

He said they will then sell the energy back to the grid. The revenue will all go back to the participating residents who will get money off of their National Grid bill. Another 50 people will be randomly selected from the neighborhood to also get the credit. Early estimates show residents could save as much as 25 dollars per month.

National Grid has already installed panels on one home and we’re told they have about 40 more people in a queue.

“It’s nice to see someone coming into our neighborhood to offer that to us,” said James Green, who has lived in the Fruit Belt for more than 20 years.

He said he would be interested but wants more information.

“It seems to be cleaner, purer from what I hear, I mean why not?” said Green.

Once they’ve collected all of the data they need, Brady said the company will look at whether it can be scaled up for other parts of the city or state.