• Community solar: model for the future
    By Allison Gillette
    Commentary | August 01,2013
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    If you took a poll in downtown Rutland, you’d have a hard time finding someone who doesn’t like solar power. Most Vermonters understand that solar panels produce clean electricity that is sorely needed as we face the hot and rainy reality of climate change and look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

    In fact, if you asked the average Rutland resident if they’d like to power their home with the sun, chances are you’d hear a resounding “Yes.” Or actually, you might hear “Yes, but ….”

    Yes, but my yard is shaded by mature trees. Yes, but my roof is too small for solar panels. Yes, but I don’t own my home. Yes, but I can’t afford to invest in solar. Even though solar is now very affordable, and some options exist with low down payments, there are still too many barriers for most people to put solar on their home.

    An innovative solar initiative is offering 50 Green Mountain Power customers in Rutland City and Town a new way to go solar — with no up-front costs, no panels on the roof or in the yard, and no need to own the place you live. To go solar this new way is simple, fast, probably saves you money and is very flexible. You simply sign a lease for three, five or 10 years and become part of the Rutland Solar Community. This is the first program which offers no-money-down, short-term leases anywhere in the United States. How do we do it?

    NRG, the country’s largest owner of solar energy systems, will build and maintain a solar array in Rutland large enough to power 50 households. Because of Vermont’s progressive solar regulations, Green Mountain Power will give Rutland Solar Community members a cash credit on their monthly electric bill for all the energy these panels produce, and each member will actually be paying less per kilowatt-hour of electricity than they are paying now. It is simple. You sign the lease, and NRG and GMP take care of everything else. Whether you own or rent, whether you have a shaded roof or a little roof, NRG builds the array that provides power for you.

    There has been a lot of excitement and activity this year around Rutland’s effort to become the solar capital of New England by 2017. Solar arrays have sprouted at the Poor Farm and the Creek Path, and more are on the way at the College of St. Joseph, Stafford Hill Solar Farm and the Rutland Regional Medical Center.

    The Rutland Solar Community gives almost every Rutland resident the opportunity to reap the benefits of this energy revolution and support the growth of solar power.

    To sign up for community solar, or to learn more, email vermontsolar@nrgenergy.com or call (802)855-3398. Options include a short lease for more flexibility or a longer lease for greater savings. The project is supported by Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest electric utility, which has been dependably serving Vermonters for more than 100 years.

    Allison Gillette is solar project coordinator at NRG Residential Solar. She lives in Rutland.
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