VPIRG Launches Solar Project For Homeowners

09/23/10 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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AP Photo/Toby Talbot

(Host) The Vermont Public Interest Research Group has launched a new project to expand the number of homes and small businesses in the state that use solar energy.

VPIRG has identified an initial group of 5 communities where solar contractors will offer substantial discounts to install new systems.

VPR's Bob Kinzel has more.

(Kinzel) Duane Peterson is VPIRG's co-director for energy issues. He says the concept behind the new program is quite simple.

Peterson believes that more homeowners and small businesses will turn to solar energy if someone guides them through the maze of issues surrounding the installation of a new system:

(Peterson) "We heard time and time again that folks want to get their electricity from renewable sources but they have a lot of trouble figuring out how to do that as individuals figuring out what vendors to pick and what equipment to choose and arranging for financing and securing permits and that's a lot for the individual to figure out. So we thought we'd help out."

(Kinzel) Peterson says the program will be available initially in five communities: Williston, Waterbury, Moretown, Duxbury and St. George.

Here's how it works. VPIRG asked a group of solar contractors to submit a bid price to install projects in these towns. Peterson says providing this "bundled" opportunity to the contractors resulted in a roughly 25 percent discount for consumers:

(Peterson) "The easiest way to think about it is sort of a group purchasing club where, through the volume that we're going to generate and through the close proximity within specific communities, we'll be able to create real efficiencies that the installers are eager to tap."

(Kinzel) Peterson says the new program makes solar a competitive energy source when you factor in federal tax credits, a state rebate program and the discounted cost of a new system:

(Peterson) "We think the typical Vermont homeowner could ‘go solar' for about what they're paying now for electricity, plus about the cost of a good cup of coffee a week. So we think we can get it to about 85 bucks a month to get your electricity from the sun. And then after 10 years when you've paid off your solar panels, you'll never have to pay for electricity again."

(Kinzel) Peterson says these five communities currently have a combined total of 31 solar installations.  He says the goal of the new program is to triple this number in the next 4 months. 

He says VPIRG plans to add more communities to this program early next year.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.




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