Solarize America

a guest post by Ken Whiteside, Director of Business Development at ONTILITY, LLC.

Solarize America Recently, we’ve seen the emergence of some interesting solar market drivers. Programs and trends that are well outside the traditional box-full of government and utility company incentives. Community solar and the trend of donating credits from net metering to churches and charities was written about here a short time ago. Now another program is gathering momentum: the Solarize initiative.

Solarize programs do not represent a significantly new concept – fundamentally, they are group purchase arrangements. Farmers in the 1800s formed co-ops to increase their purchasing power (among other things) and every one of you with a Costco or Sam’s Club card in your wallet understands the power of bulk buying. Though the structure and details differ from either co-ops or Costco, Solarize lowers the price for all participants through group purchase of equipment and installation services. The more people who participate in a given local program, the less expensive PV is for all.

The Solarize idea has very broad appeal, evidenced by the most recent news from Solarize Plano. Yes, that’s Plano, Texas, an expansive, fast-growing, politically conservative city on the edge of Dallas.

Solarize Plano is seeing huge success, exceeding the expectations of its founders. Within just a few months, 120 kW of installation contracts have been signed at rates about 20 percent below typical retail prices. Note that this is occurring in an area where the only other financial incentives are on-again-off-again rebates from utilities Oncor and CoServ, the 30 percent federal tax credit, and net metered compensation.

Solarize Plano joins states, Massachusetts, Colorado and Washington, and several cities including Portland, Oregon, Santa Barbara, California, and Summit County, Utah, which have launched very successful programs. Consider that list of cities for a minute. It isn’t often that Portland, Santa Barbara and Plano land on the same list.

The proliferation and success of these initiatives, along with community solar, PACE programs (more on those soon), and other ways to enhance the economy of solar, illustrates that regardless of geography, demographics and politics, people are hungry to "go solar." The demand is present – surveys show it, rebate-based programs that sell out within hours of launch prove it. All it takes is for the money to make sense.

For more information about Solarize programs, look at the Solarize Guidebook published by the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Dept. of Energy.

Ken Whiteside photo Ken Whiteside has been a fan of solar energy for decades. His first hands-on experience was installing solar on off-grid houses around Telluride, Colorado in the 1990’s (summer in the San Juan Mtns. - somebody had to do it). From his home in Austin, Ken writes and works for widespread adoption of solar electricity, smart energy production and use, and sustainability.

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