Community solar gardens solve home solar adoption challenges
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Massachusetts joins Minnesota and Colorado as states providing clean energy alternatives with community solar gardens.
Next Step Living, a leader in home energy solutions, now has more than 1,500 contracts for gardens expected to go live in late November in Western Massachusetts, and another 10,000 reservations to date for upcoming solar gardens to be built around the state.
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"Community solar allows homeowners to share a local solar garden, which is a very efficient way to build solar compared to putting panels on each person's home," said Next Step Living General Manager of Community Solar Allen McGonagill. "This is the easiest way for people to adopt clean energy and save money at the same time. It only takes seconds to reserve your place online or by calling one of our advisors."
Next Step Living is currently signing contracts equivalent to 10 acres of solar gardens, or 2 megawatts of power per month. "It is a testament to how much homeowners want to cut their utility bills and are looking for clean energy solutions. Rooftop solar is not a viable solution for 80 percent of homes and community solar offers residents a way to save money and reduce their carbon footprint," said Next Step Living President Brian Greenfield. "When all the gardens are live, the collective impact in our first year alone will be the equivalent of offsetting the carbon emitted by a fossil-fuel burning vehicle driving nearly 40,000 miles."
Next Step Living is working with partners to construct community solar gardens around the state. The company is also looking at expansion in New York State in early 2016 in response to customer interest.
Community solar is available to qualified National Grid or Eversource Massachusetts ratepayers. Homeowners don't need a rooftop where photovoltaic panels would be installed. That's because community solar is a maintenance-free managed service, with a remotely located solar array, referred to as a garden. With community solar, residents get credit on their electric bill for energy produced on a remote solar garden located in their region. Since the credits are purchased at a special discounted rate, they automatically save on utility bills. Therefore, homeowners can "go solar" with community solar with zero upfront investment.
Condo owners can take advantage of solar, as well as single family homeowners. Catharine L. of Natick is an Eversource ratepayer who learned about community solar at a Next Step Living educational table at a Stop & Shop store. She was interested in greening her home and wasn't sure rooftop solar was an option. "Going solar is simply the right thing to do," she says after becoming a Next Step Living community solar customer. "Whenever I encounter a person who can't go solar because of trees blocking their roof, or who don't like the look of solar panels I tell them: You can still go solar. And then I tell them about my experience."
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