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Tonawanda Goes Above Goal for Solarize Campaign

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In August, the Town of Tonawanda launched a Solarize campaign to make the installation of solar panels more affordable for residents and increase energy efficiency.

The Solarize initiative is a component of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Clean Energy Communities Program. According to Town of Tonawanda Councilman Bill Conrad, around 50 contracts were signed to install solar systems at the completion of the town’s program, which was extended through December.

Since the town started with a targeted goal of at least 25, Conrad said it has reached beyond expectations for the program. Using both outreach and education, the campaign helped potential solar customers choose a vetted solar installation company that, according to town officials, offered competitive, transparent and discounted pricing.

“Solarize Tonawanda” negotiated reduced installation and material costs from local installer Solar Liberty. According to Conrad, town residents were able to attend eight meetings during the campaign to gain more knowledge about going solar and connect with the installers. “Installers did an outstanding job focusing on actual technology and the opportunities,” he said.

Additionally, a letter detailing the campaign was included in the tax bill this year, which was written by Conrad and Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger. Conrad noted that the letter got quite a lot of people interested in the program as well.

The campaign was a step in the Tonawanda Tomorrow’s implementation, which Conrad says includes enhancing the town’s sustainability, energy efficiency and place-based values. To learn more about Tonawanda Tomorrow, visit www.tonawandatomorrow.org.

The campaign was also part of an effort to help the Town of Tonawanda achieve the Clean Energy Community designation from New York State and receive a $150,000 grant. The town is currently finalizing how to use the grant money.

According to Conrad, the town is exploring various options, and some of the ideas include purchasing additional trees due to the destruction caused by the emerald ash borer; installing more solar panels on town buildings; purchasing an additional car for the Building Department; and assisting with changing town code.

“We’re looking to do a lot of little things with it instead of one big thing,” Conrad said of the grant.

Due to the campaign’s success, town officials have been included in conference calls to share their experience and best practices with other communities to help run their programs. Conrad said the use of the town’s federal Community Development Block Grant funds stood out.

This allowed the town’s Planning and Development Department to conduct special outreach to assist low- to moderate-income homeowners who wanted to install solar panels on their homes. The town is also being recognized at a national level for its efforts. According to Conrad, the town was contacted by SolSmart, a national designation program led by the Solar Foundation, which recognizes communities that make it faster, easier and more affordable to go solar.

“We had a terrific team working behind this, making things more efficient in the town. It’s a nice opportunity to do something a little different and offer an opportunity for residents to save on their electric bill,” Conrad said, adding that many residents took advantage of the Solarize campaign.