Much has been said nationally about things like energy independence and the green economy, but for many everyday folks, taking real steps toward things like installing solar panels on their homes comes down to one thing: how much does it cost?
That was the core of a new program from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) called "Solarize Massachusetts," a program that was explained in a presentation by MassCEC's Elizabeth Kennedy to curious residents at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts on Wednesday.
In addition to Chelmsford, the communities of Bourne, Brookline, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Lee, Medford, Medway, Newton, Northampton and Williamstown are participating in the program, which is designed to provide incentives and cost reductions for solar power to residents.
Chelmsford and Carlisle are doing the program jointly, and many Carlisle residents like Ellen Kriegel were in attendance at the program.
Kriegel specifically designed her house to maximize the potential for installing photovoltaic solar panels on her roof one day, but other concerns ranging from the pollution in the creation of the panels to costs in limiting the life of a roof have her still on the fence.
"I think this is a good idea for some people in certain circumstances," she said. "I think this program will do well, but I wish they talked about some things beyond what they said."
Solarize Massachusetts' volunteer "Solar Coach" for Chelmsford, Marc Grant, agrees that the move to install solar panels may not be the right move for all home owners due to the location of shade and the direction houses may face toward the sun, but when it came to the presentation itself, he was satisfied and expects the dialogue to continue.
"Tonight's crowd was pretty good, what we expected in terms of turnout," said Grant. "People were very engaged, they had many questions, particularly in terms of finances, which are very complicated."
Grant is aiming to reach 150 homes this year, and says in optimal instances, homeowners can save up to 20 percent on their utility bills.
Chelmsford Conservation Commission member Cori Rose thought the presentation was excellent, but believes that points like that utility bill number will be key on whether the program succeeds.
"I think a lot of people are a little overwhelmed by the amount of money they'd have to put down to purchase a system, but the benefits of getting a lease outweigh the rates we're paying now," said Rose. "I think it's a win-win situation either way you go."
It's too soon to know if the program will be a success, but for Kennedy, the night was worthwhile.
"I think it was a good turnout, everyone was engaged and informed about the technology," said Kennedy. "I think Chelmsford and Carlisle will have a successful program."