By Nikki Coddington, Abundant Efficiency
Over 400 homeowners and commercial property owners in Westchester County are going solar, thanks to Solarize Westchester, a community program created to encourage the growth of solar power by lowering the cost and simplifying the process.
These solar contracts represent over 3.7 megawatts of solar power capacity and will produce clean, renewable energy, significantly reducing electric bills and demand from the electric grid.
Solarize Westchester ran a total of eight campaigns in partnership with sixteen municipalities. The residential portion of campaigns in Hastings-Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown, Somers-New Castle, and Rye Brook ended in March, and the commercial portion of those campaigns concluded at the end of April. Campaigns in Bedford-Mt Kisco, Cortlandt-Croton, Larchmont-Mamaroneck, and Ossining-Briarcliff concluded in June of last year.
Solarize is designed to dramatically accelerate the adoption of solar technology in participating communities. Contracts signed through the most recent 20-week residential campaigns represent an average 190% increase compared to solar energy systems installed during the prior 12 years in those communities.
And the value of a Solarize campaign lies not only in the contracts signed, but also in the broader impact of community education and awareness about solar. The Solarize campaigns received an enthusiastic response, generating more than 2,700 requests for solar evaluations during the eight campaigns.
Research shows that after a Solarize campaign ends, homeowners continue to install solar at higher rates than prior to a campaign. The more that homeowners see solar on neighborhood roofs and talk to the solar homeowners, the more likely others are to think about getting solar themselves, so continued growth in solar adoption in Solarize communities is expected.
Nina Orville, Program Manager of Solarize Westchester, said, “The results of Solarize Westchester have surpassed our expectations. We are thrilled with the number of installations as well as the deep community engagement that has made these campaigns such a success. Elected officials, community volunteers and municipal staff partnered with the selected installers and the Solarize Westchester team to provide their communities the opportunity to to install high-quality solar from vetted installers at a lower cost. There is clearly strong demand in Westchester County for the low cost clean energy that solar installations provide.”
One element key to the success of the campaigns was the support of the chief elected officials. Rob Greenstein, Supervisor of the Town of New Castle, said, “Our incredibly successful Solarize Somers-New Castle campaign has come to an end. 88 homes signed up! This is another example of both communities taking positive steps to reduce long-term energy costs and preserve the environment. Residents realize that when something is good for the environment, it’s good for them. That’s exactly why I enrolled!”
In addition to the Solarize campaigns, the Solarize Westchester program included outreach to all municipalities in Westchester to encourage adoption of solar-friendly permitting and zoning practices to reduce barriers to solar installation. Seventeen municipalities have made improvements and many others are considering them.
Solarize Westchester (www.SolarizeWestchester.com) is one of several clean energy initiatives of Energize NY and is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) under NY-Sun, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s $1 billion initiative to advance the scale-up of solar energy and move the state closer to having a sustainable, self-sufficient solar industry. In his 2016 State of the State address, the Governor called for additional solar projects to be installed at 150,000 homes and businesses by 2020.
John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), said, “The Solarize Westchester campaign is a great example of how communities are working to make solar energy affordable for residents and businesses, while advancing New York’s clean energy goals. The success of this program builds on the significant growth of solar under Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative and will help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and better protect our environment.”
About Solarize Westchester: Solarize Westchester is one of several clean energy programs offered by Energize NY. The program includes two rounds of Solarize campaigns, each with four pre-selected communities (or coalitions of communities). In addition, Solarize Westchester includes a Solar-friendly Permitting and Zoning