The “solarize” Massachusetts programs have worked so well that a new pilot program launched in the Pioneer Valley is trying to make as big a splash for solar hot water.
Working with a Clean Energy Center grant, the Hampshire Council of Governments has launched the first grant for homeowners to install solar hot water systems, using Greenfield-based Spartan Solar of Greenfield as its contractor.
The pilot program, which is charged with signing up 25 homes in the valley by June 30 to have systems installed with a CEC rebate, on top of federal and state credits, with installation next year.
Almost a quarter of home heating costs result from heating water, according to Hampshire COG.
Modeled after the Solarize program, a grass-roots outreach and education campaign model supported by MassCEC since 2011 that has supported installation of nearly 1,000 solar electric systems.
Incentives available for solar hot water include rebates, tax credits, and the new Massachusetts Alternative Energy Certificate program, which can reduce the cost of a system. A homeowner using oil to heat their home could install three solar hot water collectors on their roof. With incentives, the price of a system could drop over 90 percent.
According to detailed cost estimates, which are available on the Hampshire COG site, a $12,000 system with four collectors, for example, could wind up after incentives costing just $1,300.
“Through this program, we are expecting after-incentive installation costs to be between $1,000-$2,000. In some cases, it may even be less than $1000,” said Spartan Solar owner Spartan Giordano. “When homeowners are spending $500 to $1,000 a year heating water, the investment is a huge win for the client and the planet.”
Not only are solar hot water panels cheaper than photovoltaic systems, said Hampshire COG representative Catherine Welker, but they may be available to customers who aren’t necessarily the best fit for PV.
Welker acknowledged that 25 systems is “a low goal,” but said the program is simply a pilot offered by the state to see how popular the demand will be.
Using the Solarize Mass model, the hot-water campaign seeks to teach consumers the benefits of a mature, well-established renewable energy technology that can help them save money on energy while reducing their carbon footprint.
“The Solarize Hot Water campaign allows homeowners to receive the largest return on their investment, at a low upfront cost,” said Sinead Coleman, director of Hampshire COG’s energy operations.
On the Web: www.hcg-ma.org/solar-hot-water