Board takes cautious stand about endorsing solar initiative

TOWNSHEND — The Selectboard declined to go so far as to endorse his presence, but they welcomed him to town.

Tad Montgomery, principal of Home Energy Advocates, appeared before the Selectboard Aug. 18 to sell the board on backing Solarize Windham, an intiative committed to rolling out bulk purchasing on solar panels and their installation to homes and businesses.

Solarize Windham aims to install a megawatt of solar in homes across Windham County before federal solar tax rebates expire at the end of 2016 - that's enough to support hundreds of average-sized homes, Montgomery said.

Home Energy Advocates is partnering with Real Good Solar (RGS Energy) to offer Solarize in Windham County. RGS said it has unique national experience delivering successful solar installations.

The more people who sign means the lower everyone's project costs fall, Montgomery said. Solarize leverages federal subsidies and state rebates on project costs - and it wants to both beat the clock and use its ticking in helping convert buyers to the clean energy investment.

Montgomery, a member of Brattleboro's Energy Committee, has said he's proposed Solarize to about a dozen towns and that he intends to persevere until someone tells him to stop - “and maybe not even then.”

Solarize Windham ( explains volunteers publicize and organize Solarize campaigns and help identify partner installers. Town and energy committee backing is seen as an essential piece of the marketing push.

Montgomery also said the board, in supporting Solarize, could help itself corral an energy committee.

“It's terribly important to help you all in your work around energy issues in town to have a group of people focusing solely on that. [Such committees] serve a very useful purpose in saving energy and lowering costs in town,” he said.

“What I commit to if this program goes forward is to use the people that gather around the Solarize initiative to try to then seed the starting of an energy committee in town.”

Montgomery also held out the idea of Townshend's participation in a Windham Solid Waste Management District-commissioned solar power net-metering arrangement at a large array at the capped landfill in Brattleboro.

But the board declined on every front: Townshend expects shortly to sign an exclusive solar power net-meetering agreement with Sovern Solar and, in any event, has sufficient solar agreements in play such that adding this new relationship is not something the board has an appetite for.

Moreover, board member Carol Melis, an attorney, warned that extending the Selectboard's “Good Housekeeping seal of approval” to Solarize and RGS Energy without doing its due dilligence could come back to haunt the town should some part of the project turn out poorly for a hypothetical customer.

Speaking for herself, she said, “I do think it is a good thing and would love to see it out there.”

In the end, the board approved a politely worded acknowledgement of Solarize's arrival here.

The board's decision to withhold an endorsement by no means prevents Solarize or RGS Energy from doing business in town and by definition is not a comment on its merits.

Asked his outside the meeting room following the vote whether not getting the board's endorsement disappointed him, Montgomery told The Commons no: “Absolutely not. It's a multi-year thing,” he said.

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