Solarize Hanover results in 62 installation contracts

by Katie Rafter | 2/9/15 8:07pm

Following the Jan. 31 deadline for Solarize Hanover, a program aiming to promote solar energy in the Upper Valley, 273 Hanover residents signed up to have their homes visited and evaluated, resulting in 62 installation contracts, which is a higher amount than any other town in the Upper Valley participating in this program.

According to the Hanover press release, these 273 homes represent around nine percent of Hanover households.

The Energy Emporium, a New Hampshire-based solar energy equipment supplier, conducted the site visits to evaluate whether the homes would be suitable for solar panel installations.

Sarah Simonds, the energy program manager for Vital Communities, a nonprofit organization based in White River Junction working to promote solar energy in the Upper Valley said that Solarize has completed two rounds of household evaluations in the Upper Valley.

She said that five towns took part in the first round of Solarize, conducted in March 2014, and 120 homes installed solar panels. In this second round, 10 towns have participated and 178 households have signed contracts to have solar panels installed, although the installation process will not take place until late March or early April, when temperatures begin to increase and the snow begins to melt.

In the spring, Energy Emporium plans to complete four installations per week, so all installations in Hanover will be finished in about 15 weeks.

Simonds said that the organization has had success making the transition to solar energy a feasible and accessible option for households.

“If you asked someone in Hanover, and maybe even the Upper Valley, if they know someone or anyone who’s ever gone solar, most people would probably say yes at this point,” Simonds said. “This wasn’t the case a year and a half ago.”

She said that Hanover residents will now have more opportunities to go solar, and in many ways the process will be easier for others now that 62 households have already made the decision.

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that the solar panels will produce 357 kilowatts of electricity, which will reduce the town’s carbon dioxide emissions by 308 metric tons, which is the equivalent of taking 65 cars off the road.

“This is a wonderful step we can take to try and become a more sustainable community,” Griffin said.

Griffin works with the Sustainable Hanover committee alongside director of public works Peter Kulbacki to help implement projects like Solarize. She said that Vital Communities made Solarize an easy program to put into place because of its connection with Solarize Upper Valley.

“We were able to copy their tried and true message for getting the word out about solar, and it was a lot of fun to implement this project and minimize the workload,” Griffin said.

She said that it was great to have the opportunity to support Vital Communities as a local company in the process.

Sustainable Hanover is working with the Dartmouth Consulting Group on a new program that aims to make green power available for Hanover residents to purchase through a local co-op, she said. The Dartmouth Consulting Group is comprised of undergraduate students.

“It would allow people who couldn’t go solar to buy green power in another form,” Griffin said.

Kulbacki said that he has been doing outreach and communicating with residents of Hanover to answer questions and streamline the permitting process.

“We want to see how we can be more sustainable by reducing our impact,” he said.

He said that there is a possibility that the New Hampshire state rebate may not be renewed, so this is an ideal time to take advantage of this opportunity. The rebate offers $1,250 per kilowatt up to $3,750 toward installation costs.

Kulbacki said that Sustainable Hanover is taking steps to make sustainable energy more accessible and affordable for Hanover residents.

“We are looking at how we can help people that couldn’t afford to go solar do something to offset their carbon impact,” he said.

Director of campus planning and Hanover town resident Joanna Whitcomb said that she decided to sign the contract to install solar panels because her home has good solar exposure and she felt that it is the right thing to do for the environment.

Sarah Labombard, a Hanover resident who works in procurement services for the College, said that she was motivated by both environmental and financial reasons. She added that the town and Vital Communities have made it an easy process for her so far.

Men’s track and field head coach Barry Harwick, a Hanover resident, said he was motivated to sign up for several reasons and said that the process was straightforward.

“Renewable energy is a good concept, and financially this is the best time to do it because they have a lot of incentives both at the state level and possible federal income tax deductions which made it very attractive,” he said.