Solar energy push is on in Wellesley

Wellesley College solar panelsThe solar panels installed at Wellesley College (shown here), Wellesley High School and Wellesley Municipal Light Plant in recent years make quite a statement: not only are they eye-catching on a sunny day, but they also allow the facilities to produce renewable energy.

Now the town’s Sustainable Energy Committee is making a push to get Wellesley residents to produce their own green energy by going solar — and save money on electricity in the process. A kick-off informational meeting will take place Wednesday, March 26 at Sprague Elementary School cafeteria at 401 School St., and you can find more info at the town’s Power to Choose website.

The town has partnered with Astrum Solar, a Maryland company that operates locally out of Hopkinton and that  is providing free site evaluations.  According to the Sustainable Energy Committee, for homes with good sunlight, annual rates of return exceed 15% and payback can be as short as 5 years for a system that will produce power for 25 years or more.

Cost savings incentives are being offered for those who sign up first. Plus, the more people who sign up, the more the price decreases for everyone who participates in the program. Upon completion of projects this year, thousands of dollars in rebates will be paid to property owners based on the size of the installation.

More than two dozen Massachusetts communities have rolled out such programs, and Wellesley joins Needham, Lexington and others introducing them now.

The Sustainable Energy Committee’s Phyllis Theermann says 12 residents in town currently have solar installations, including one at Babson College. She adds that Wellesley homes’ potential for solar should be good based on installations already seen in neighboring communities. Needham has 55 solar installations, before the town even joined the state’s Solarize program to add more. Lexington has 135 installations and Concord has over 200 after initiating a community solar program last year, Theermann says.

Photo from Astrum Solar

Photo from Astrum Solar

“Homes that are solar suitable solar have roofs facing east, south or west that get sun a good portion of the day,” Theerman says.   “A roof with few obstructions (skylights, chimneys) to laying out rows of solar panels is ideal.”

The solar push by the Sustainable Energy Committee adds to other efforts by the group, which include encouraging residents to get thermal energy scans of their homes and to commit to buying a certain amount of their WMLP energy from renewable sources.

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