To the editor:
Power made from the sun, instead of from fossil fuels, is the wave of the future. Massachusetts sends $18 billion energy dollars outside the state every year. Locally produced renewable energy keeps some of those dollars here and creates local jobs. The cost per kilowatt of solar energy is less than the cost to purchase it from the grid, over the lifetime of the system. Clean electricity from solar photovoltaic panels does not produce carbon dioxide or air pollution.
Solarize Mass was a program sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to encourage solar adoption in Massachusetts. Seventeen Massachusetts communities were chosen by MassCEC to participate in the program in 2012, including Newburyport. The program offered five tiers of discounted pricing for solar electricity systems, based on the total solar capacity contracted under the program. As more residents and businesses contracted for solar, the price dropped.
Representatives from the city and a technical consultant from MassCEC worked to find a solar installer who would dedicate its resources to this community and help citizens learn about the financial and environmental benefits of solar energy. In June, the city chose its installer, SunBug Solar. SunBug Solar and its representatives worked hard throughout the summer and fall to make sure that every citizen who expressed an interest in solar for their home or business got a free solar site evaluation and all the information necessary to make an informed decision whether solar energy was right for them. Newburyport achieved the lowest discounted rate based on 46 new solar systems representing 423.1 kilowatts of electrical capacity.
The Solarize Newburyport team of local volunteers worked to help educate the citizens and businesses in the community about solar electricity in general, and about the program. The program would not have been a success without the hard work of these citizen volunteers: JoAnn Clemens, Joe DiBiase, Bill Fogel, Amber Hewett, Ron Martino, Mike Morrissey and Christin Walth. We also appreciate the support of the mayor of Newburyport, Donna Holaday; Molly Ettenborough, the city’s energy and recycling coordinator; and Michael Strauss, chairperson, and Ethan Manning, Bob Miller and Cliff Goudy of the city’s Energy Advisory Committee. The building inspector, Gary Calderwood; the electrical inspector, David Zinck; the Conservation Commission and the Tree Committee also played key roles.
The Solarize Newburyport team is grateful to the citizens and business owners of Newburyport, who turned out in record numbers at our “Solar 101” and “Solar 201” presentations, and who expressed interest in solar energy at our booths at the Farmers Market at the Tannery and at other community events. The overwhelmingly positive response from the community and the numbers of homeowners and businesses who ultimately made the decision to “go solar” was heartening. One homeowner even asked for the system for her 50th birthday; the system will cover half of her home’s electricity use. We thank each and every one of you.
Special thanks go to the local business and commercial owners who collectively contracted for over 220kW of solar electricity, including David Hall at the Tannery, Ron L’Italien at Circle Finishing and Dr. Sam Merabi and Portside Family Dental. Shari Wilkerson at the Farmers Market; Ann Ormond and the folks at the Chamber of Commerce; Bob O’Brien at the Newburyport Clean Tech Center, and the 55-plus local businesses that displayed our posters, all played important parts in this community effort.
The collective hard work and encouragement from many members of the community helped make the program a success and lead directly to Newburyport’s adding 46 solar electricity systems representing 423 kilowatts of solar energy to our city — all locally produced and representing a six-fold increase in private solar energy capacity in the city.
In 2009, the City of Newburyport contracted for solar electricity systems for the Nock and DPS buildings. At the time, the 502-kilowatt system was the largest in the commonwealth. This program has almost matched the amount of public solar energy capacity, so that residents and businesses now have about as much solar production as city-owned buildings. In addition, the city takes 45 percent of the energy produced by the new solar facility in Salisbury. As a community, we are on our way to obtaining a significant amount of our electricity from clean, locally produced power.
Jill Haley Murphy