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Sky’s the limit on new Solarize campaign

Solar panels with clouds (Photo courtesy: Pixabay)
Jessica Marinelli
September 11, 2017

In August, the Town of Tonawanda launched its “Solarize Tonawanda” campaign, an initiative designed to “help bring solar panels to local residents through affordable installations by designated solar installers and utilizing New York State financial incentives.”

A recently released statement reads, “Solarize Tonawanda connects Town of Tonawanda and Village of Kenmore residents to local solar installers in order that the residents can receive a discounted price on solar panels for those persons interested in installing solar panels at their homes.  The campaign brings together potential solar customers through outreach and education and helps customers choose a vetted solar installation company that is offering competitive, transparent, discounted pricing.”

A similar program is already underway in Amherst, NY. For Tonawanda and Kenmore residents who are interested in hearing more about the program, the next meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 13 at 6:30 p.m. Phillip Sheridan Building, 3200 Elmwood Ave, Tonawanda, New York.

In an initiative led by Town of Tonawanda government, with support from numerous community partners such as National Grid, Kenmore-Tonawanda Union Free School District, Kenmore Teacher’s Association, Kenmore Tonawanda Chamber of Commerce, Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, PUSH-Green, Tonawanda Environmental Commission, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, this program can help leverage group purchasing of solar installations between late August 2017 and late November 2017.

“We are thrilled to be able to sponsor this program and to help residents who are interested in lowering their electric bills and being environmentally conscious at the same time” said Councilman Bill Conrad, “The closure of the coal-fired Huntley electric plant in Tonawanda and our Solarize campaign offer the Town a unique opportunity to pursue clean, renewable power production that helps our residents and the environment at the same time.”

“Solarize Tonawanda has negotiated reduced installation and material costs from two local solar installers who submitted proposals to the Town through a competitive request for proposals process.”  In addition, for those residents who qualify, the Town is making available federal Community Development Block Grant funds to help interested persons install solar systems with no upfront costs and deferred loans. According to the organizers, the installers were selected following a request for proposals for the Solarize Tonawanda campaign are Solar by CIR and Solar Liberty Energy Systems, Inc.  Both are offering discounted pricing to Town residents who participate in the campaign and install solar systems.

“We continue to see many residents in Western New York and New York State pursuing solar systems to help reduce the cost of their electricity and to contribute to the state’s goals of clean and affordable energy solutions” Nathan Rizzo, Vice President of Solar Liberty noted.

Local Solarize campaigns are conducted under the auspices of the New York Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is offering financial incentives to persons and entities that purchase and install solar panels through its NY-Sun initiative.

Applauding the work of all the partners to make green energy options more available and accessible for residents. Here’s hoping that other areas, including the city, follow suit. According to NYSERDA’s website, New York State sees Solar as key to updating its energy system to a cleaner environment while creating new jobs, “as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s commitment to improving the efficiency, affordability, and reliability of energy systems in New York State, He launched the NY-Sun initiative in 2012” which according to the website promises, “by 2023, NY-Sun aims to add more than 3 gigawatts (equivalent to powering 400k homes) of installed solar capacity in the State.”

“The ultimate goal of NY-Sun is the development of a sustainable, self-sufficient solar industry in the State.” While Solarize programs, such as “Solarize Tonawanda,” aim to help communities get the most competitive pricing by buying in groups, that’s not the only avenue available to NY residents. The state has launched several other initiatives, including:

  • Incentive programs that support solar projects for commercial and industrial companies, homes, multifamily buildings, small commercial, not-for-profit and municipal buildings.
  • K-Solar program helps schools install solar.
  • Affordable Solar program provides low-to-moderate income residents with assistance to develop solar projects.
  • Shared Solar program helps renters, residents who can’t put solar on their roofs, and others benefit from solar.

The State also continues to educate trainers for communities and governments and reduce “balance-of-system costs.” That includes streamlining the inspection and permitting process and reducing upfront costs of installation and equipment parts other than solar panels.

In 2015, Google launched project Sunroof which “calculates the amount of sunlight on your roof based on 3D modeling of your roof and nearby trees,” also taking into account weather patterns, the position of the sun in the sky during the year and shade from buildings, trees and other obstructions. That info is then converted to energy production using industry standard models for solar installation performance,” Google says. It found that 79% of homes in the U.S. Solar Viable. Surprisingly, New York State is listed 7 out of the “Top 10 States by Solar Power Potential” with the average annual hours of sunshine around 2,120 hours annually. Much of that calculation may be because of the Manhattan high-rises, however, you can check your address here.

To find out more information in person, you can attend the Solarize Tonawanda meeting on Wednesday, September 13.