Go Solar Bringing Information, Solutions to County Residents

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Tompkins Weekly          3-12-17

By Guillermo Metz

February, 2017. Temperatures in the 50s, 60s and even 70s. More sun than we’re accustomed to in upstate New York in February. It’s been pretty nice, but for those of us working on energy issues and the underlying causes of climate change, it’s been very alarming.

There is one thing you can do, though, to capitalize on all that sun and address one of the primary causes of climate change: Go solar. Transition as much of your energy as possible to clean electricity produced by your own solar panels.

Go Solar can help you. That’s the name of a new campaign being led by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County to bring affordable solar to as many people as possible. Working with community partners, Go Solar is adopting many of the Solarize principles that helped more than 400 county residents make the switch to solar under the Solar Tompkins program: Community events to bring residents together to learn about the many benefits of going solar, as well as the incentives and rebates available; working with trusted installer partners to ensure quality products and installations at discounted prices; and an enrollment process that supports participants all along the way.

Officially launched with its first two events in early March, Go Solar runs through May, with community events already planned for downtown Ithaca, Enfield, Lansing, Dryden, Danby and Brooktondale. More information and the complete schedule is available at www.GoSolarTompkins.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GoSolarTompkinsCounty, or at ccetompkins.org.

Let’s explode three myths about solar right now – one of which has several parts: 1) we don’t get enough sun in upstate NY for solar to work, 2) solar is only for the very wealthy, and 3) I can’t go solar because a) my home is too shady or b) I don’t own my house or c) I live in an apartment. Now, just about everyone can go solar and cover all of their electricity needs.

Upstate NY may feel cloudy and gray for much of the year, but in fact, we get plenty of sun to supply all our power needs. You’ve probably seen the comparison by now, but for those who haven’t, take a side-by-side look sometime at how much solar electricity is produced in Germany and how much is produced in the U.S. Then overlay that with a comparison of the solar potential maps for Germany and the Northeastern U.S. Germany gets about 25 percent less sun than we do here in the Northeast and yet produces vastly more energy from solar than the entire U.S.. We get plenty of sun here.

We’ve all been hearing that the price of solar panels has been dropping. It hasn’t just been dropping, it’s plummeted. From an installed cost of as much as $10 per watt just 10 years ago, it’s now possible to get quality systems for under $3 per watt installed. In fact, the cost of electricity from solar panels is now lower than the cost of retail electricity for most people.

There’s even an option for those who really aren’t able to spend a penny on solar right now. If you own your home and the roof is in good shape, it is possible to lease panels and get all the benefits of solar right away, with no money up-front. You simply allow a company to install panels on your roof, then buy your electricity from them, at a cost that’s less than you’re paying now. You won’t save a lot – not as much as if you owned the panels – but it’s a way to get your electricity from the sun without large upfront costs. In most cases, you can even buy the panels after a few years, at a much lower cost, and still expect to get plenty of electricity from them.

And for those who live in an apartment, don’t own their homes, or who have a giant beloved oak tree shading their roof, there’s now an option for you: Community shared solar. It is now possible to own solar panels that sit on someone else’s property and get all the benefits of solar. By net metering back to your house, you get all the solar “credits” the panels produce to offset what you use at home, just as if the panels were on your roof. You don’t get all the incentives, but the installed cost is lower, so it’s still cost-effective.

By teaming with four local and regional installers – Renovus, Taitem, Twin Tier and Apex – Go Solar is able to offer every option available today to make going solar as simple and affordable as possible.

The sun is shining and the planet is warming – let’s all do something that makes the most of the former to address the latter. Come learn all about solar, meet our installer partners, and sign up for a free assessment at a community event near you. For more information, visit the web sites previously listed or call Guillermo Metz at (607) 272-2292.

Guillermo Metz is an Energy Team Leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.

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