Solar program: it doesn’t make sense not to participate

BRATTLEBORO — Solar isn't just for wealthy homeowners anymore. As a renter with a modest income, I can't install solar panels on my building, and don't have the money to make the up-front investment.

So I'm planning to take out a low-interest loan through the new Windham County Solar Loan Program and use it to purchase shares in a community solar project. I estimate that by doing so, I will cut my electric bill by two-thirds and save more than $10,000 over 25 years.

The monthly payments on my loan will be less than my monthly electric bill, so I'll be saving money right from the start. It doesn't make sense not to do it.

If you've been thinking about going solar, there's never been a better time than now. The price of solar panels has dropped by 50 percent or more over the last two to three years, and new financing programs make solar truly affordable and a great investment.

Homeowners, renters, landlords, and businesses can cut their electric costs dramatically while supporting clean, renewable power and local jobs. For example, Brattleboro Savings & Loan is now meeting 100 percent of its electrical needs through participation in a community solar project in Brattleboro.

Brattleboro Climate Protection and the Brattleboro Energy Committee have teamed up with five local solar installers to launch Brattleboro Solar Summer, a five-month campaign (May through September) to support residents in choosing locally generated power. Our immediate goal is for at least 100 Brattleboro residents to install solar electric systems on their home, business, or rental property, or buy into a community solar project during the campaign period.

The participating solar companies - Soveren Solar, Sunnyside Solar Store, Gary MacArthur Solar, Solar Source, and Integrated Solar - are offering discounts to Brattleboro residents, with the size of the discount depending on the number of people who sign up.

If you're ready to go solar but wondering how to pay for it, there are options that can help. The Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU), which is open to all who live or work in Vermont, offers low-interest loans for a limited time to Windham County residents to install panels or invest in community solar. For more information, contact VSECU's Brattleboro office at 1-800-371-5291. Residents can also take advantage of a 30-percent federal tax credit that is set to expire at the end of 2016.

There is more information on Brattleboro Solar Summer at www.brattleborosolarsummer.org. Contact one or more of the participating installers and schedule a free site visit, or find out how you can purchase shares in a community solar project. It's never been easier for our lives to be powered by the sun.

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