Fairfield residents have less than three weeks to take advantage of Solarize Fairfield, a program that offers homeowners the opportunity to purchase or lease a solar energy system at a reduced cost.
Fairfield is one of four towns -- the others are Westport, Durham, and Portland -- chosen to participate in the pilot program Solarize Connecticut, which kicked off in town in late August. The program is based on similar successful ventures that were carried out Oregon and Massachusetts.
"The hope is to make solar more affordable for residents," Bob Wall, director of marketing and research for Connecticut's Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), said.
"We hope to bring Fairfield to the front end of the clean energy revolution."
Deadline to Sign up for Solarize Fairfield is Friday, Dec. 14
Residents who would like to participate in the program must sign up by Dec. 14 to qualify for the reduced rates and incentives. The more participants, the more the rates are reduced. Currently, enough Fairfielders have signed up to qualify for Tier 3 savings, meaning homeowners who invest in the solar photovoltaic (PV) panel system save 25 percent more than those who install a system outside the program.
According to Wall, there are 19 families have signed up since the program began. "It's really taken off," Wall said.
Just ask Fairfield resident Larry Kaley, a former RTM member and chairman of the Clean Energy Task Force, who worked to bring Solarize Connecticut to Fairfield. Solar panels were installed on the roof of his home earlier this month.
"There are no catches to the program, and everyone saves a lot of money and helps the environment," he explained.
Leasing vs. Purchasing a Solar PV System
After a free site consultation, a homeowner has to decide whether they would like to purchase or lease a solar PV system. According to the Solarize Fairfield website, the average system of solar panels costs $25,600, but the net cost is reduced to approximately $10,375 after residents receive a federal tax credit (estimated at $4,445) and a portion of a solar grant ($10,780), from the state. Those who purchase a system will see about $77,000 in electricity bill savings over 20 years.
"You'll get payback for your initial investment within four to seven years," according to Wall. "It's a solid investment."
Residents who choose to lease a system pay no money down and about $53 for the lease payment. Lessees will save approximately $43,000 over 20 years.
According to Wall, a residential solar panel system is warrantied to last more than 20 years.
Paperwork and Installation
After the homeowner chooses whether to buy or lease a system, employees of Astrum Solar, the Maryland-based contractor selected by members of Fairfield's Clean Energy Task Force to conduct the program, do the rest.
The terms and rates for purchasing solar power and a panel system are pre-negotiated, according to Michelle Waldgeir, vice president of marketing for Astrum Solar.
"You don't have to do all the research and legwork," she said.
The process takes about three months from beginning to end, Waldgeir said. After a resident signs up to participate in Solarize Fairfield, he or she is responsible for signing the paperwork that will allow Astrum Solar to apply for the state's solar grant, for building permits, and to connect the system to the home's existing utilities.
Once the paperwork is done, the solar panels are installed onto the dwelling's roof, which takes about two days, Waldgeir said. The installation is followed a week later by an inspection, and then the meter is installed and switched on.
"The meter is the magic," Waldgeir explained. "It's the key to the system, and to saving money on bills."
'It Really Does Work'
Waldgeir added that an advantage to investing in solar power through Solarize Fairfield is working with a company that has been properly vetted.
"There's accountability. We're confident that our customers will get accountability all the time -- which is not something that always happens in a new industry," Waldgeir said.
While residential solar systems are part of a relatively new industry, Waldgeir noted that thousands of homeowners in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey have embraced the trend.
"It really does work, and it's a really good thing," she said. "If you don't know much about solar, now is the time to look into it. It's a lot more affordable to do it now."
To learn more about Solarize Fairfield and to sign up for the program, visit the Solarize Fairfield website. You can also learn more about local cost savings and solar energy by visiting Astrum Solar's Fairfield web page.