Solarize Connecticut program comes to Manchester

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Wed., Sep. 25, 2013
Brian Wolverton (standing, third from left), a management analyst with the town of Manchester, hosted the Solar Ambassador meeting for solar advocates in Manchester who have signed on to get the word out about Solarize Manchester to town residents. The 20-week campaign that kicks off Oct. 3 at Manchester High School will use economies of scale to offer solar installations to Manchester residents at considerable savings. Photo by Annie Gentile.
Brian Wolverton (standing, third from left), a management analyst with the town of Manchester, hosted the Solar Ambassador meeting for solar advocates in Manchester who have signed on to get the word out about Solarize Manchester to town residents. The 20-week campaign that kicks off Oct. 3 at Manchester High School will use economies of scale to offer solar installations to Manchester residents at considerable savings. Photo by Annie Gentile.

Manchester homeowners interested in jumping on the solar bandwagon — or who at least want to learn whether their electrical bills can be significantly reduced with a solar installation — have a unique opportunity before them. The town has been selected to participate in a new program called Solarize Manchester.

As part of the larger state-sponsored Solarize Connecticut program, town officials have worked with the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) and the national non-profit organization SmartPower to choose, through a competitive bid process, the qualified solar installer Stratford-based Encon Solar.

On Thursday, Sept. 12, the town of Manchester held a kick-off meeting at Town Hall inviting individuals and businesses who have an interest in the benefits of solar power to become “solar ambassadors” to the town and help brainstorm ways to get the word out to residents. Hosted by Brian Wolverton, management analyst with the town of Manchester, the meeting served to introduce the key players in the program and explain how the program works.

Robert Schmitt, marketing and outreach associate with CEFIA, said the Solarize Connecticut program is a hyper-local marketing campaign, and SmartPower’s role is to help Encon with marketing to enable them to create economies of scale and savings on installation costs that can then be passed on to residents. Discounts are tiered based on kilowatt hours, so the more residents that sign up for the program, the greater the individual savings.

Past campaigns, Schmitt said, have resulted in achieving about 15- to 20-percent lower costs than the market average. “CEFIA’s role is as the overall designer and administrator of the system,” Schmitt said, explaining that the company utilizes rebates, tax credits and a variety of financing options to make solar an affordable investment.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for residents of Manchester,” said Manchester General Manager Scott Shanley. He said the degree to which we can reduce our dependence on No. 2 fuel oil and electricity, Connecticut being one of the highest in the nation, is a very desirable goal. “One of the strengths of the program is that because of the competitive process and their reputation, Encon will become a single source contact for residents to get the information they need,” he said.

The role of solar ambassadors is critical to the program’s success, Schmitt said. “You are the lynchpins that make this work. You have the valuable connections we don’t have,” he said. To that end, the group brainstormed ways to get the word out — through schools, places of worship, civic groups, farmers' markets, election-day polling sites, town-wide events as well as conventional mailings — and bring as many people as possible to the official launch event on Thursday evening, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. at the Manchester High School Auditorium, 134 East Middle Turnpike. The workshop will give Manchester residents an opportunity to meet with Encon representatives, learn about flexible financing including no-money-down options, and to learn how much residents can save by going solar.

The campaign is 20 weeks in duration, so residents will have from Oct. 3 through Feb. 20, 2014, to sign a contract to qualify. Those who can’t attend the kickoff event will have ample other opportunities to learn about the program, including attending barbecue events hosted by Encon at new installations so residents can come and see for themselves what is looks like to “go solar.”

For a free no-obligation site consultation, residents may call Encon Solar at 203-375-5228. For more information about the program, visit www.SolarizeCT.com/Manchester.


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