Stafford residents encouraged to 'go solar'

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Wed., Nov. 20, 2013
Peter Dion (right) of Ross Solar talks with Stafford resident Kevin Mordasky about the benefits of going solar. Photos by Annie Gentile.
Peter Dion (right) of Ross Solar talks with Stafford resident Kevin Mordasky about the benefits of going solar. Photos by Annie Gentile.

Stafford residents have a unique opportunity to jump on the solar bandwagon, but like many opportunities, it’s a limited-time offer. The Clean Energy Finance Investment Authority (CEFIA), a quasi-state agency, has partnered with the national clean energy marketing firm SmartPower and Danbury, Conn.-based solar installer Ross Solar Group to offer group discount rates on solar installations for Stafford residents only.

The Solarize Stafford initiative, which officially launched at the Stafford Community Center on Nov. 14, will run for 10 weeks, and residents who wish to take advantage of the discounted rates must sign a contract by Jan. 28, 2014.

CEFIA has launched similar programs in 30 Connecticut towns to date, partnering with about 12 different installers, said Rob Schmitt, an associate with marketing and outreach for CEFIA. “We try to get towns that have an established solar task force as Stafford does,” he said. He said the end goal is to be able to build up enough interest statewide so that CEFIA can then step away and let the market take off on its own.

Kate Donnelly of SmartPower said her non-profit company’s role in the 10-week roll-out is to work with the town to market the program, which typically results in a savings of about 20 percent below market cost. She explained that by having the towns do the outreach work, it allows the solar installers to save money, and those savings are passed on to the consumer. Additional savings are passed along to the consumer when multiple installations are lined up in one area, as the installer does not waste time and money traveling long distances between jobs. “The pricing is based on a tiered system, so that the more people that participate, the lower the cost becomes,” said Donnelly.

Schmitt said the town of Stafford, in concert with the Stafford Energy Advisory Committee (SEAC), went out to bid to about 60 solar installers, and after a thorough vetting process, they chose Ross Solar for their reputation, price and reliability. The firm is already familiar with Stafford, as it has contracted with SEAC to install 600kw of solar panels on local schools.

“The more residents who sign up, the lower the cost per installed watt of solar PV [photovoltaic],” said Stephan Hartmann of Ross Solar. “It’s sort of like buying bulk at Costco,” he said, adding that besides the bulk discount, residents can also take advantage of state and federal incentives that can lower the installation cost another 50 to 60 percent.

“Why invest in solar?” Hartmann asked. For starters, he said a solar installation will allow residents to hedge against the rising cost of electricity. There are consistent tax-free and risk-free returns, as well as environmental benefits. Studies have also shown that a solar installation increases the overall value of one’s home, Hartmann said, but while the value of one’s home will increase, solar installations remain sales tax- and property tax-exempt.

Solar ambassadors - those who have first-hand experience with the benefits of a solar installation - were also on hand at the kickoff event to share their experiences. Leonard “Butch” Clark and Gene Julian, both members of SEAC, have high praise for going solar. In a website testimonial, Clark said his solar array provides 100 percent of his electricity needs, while Julian, who has a leased system which provides all of his electricity needs as well, said his lease payment is less than what he used to pay for his electricity.

Any Stafford resident interested in learning more about Solarize Stafford is encouraged to visit the website, where residents can sign up for a free site visit and evaluation. The site includes a direct link to the Ross Solar Group website and also provides detailed information on financing options, solar events and testimonials.

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