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Westwood Environmental Action Committee hosts solar forum

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Forty people packed the community room at the Westwood Senior Center last week to learn how to get free, clean electricity from the sun, as the Westwood Environmental Action Committee (WEACt) hosted the forum “Put your roof to work: Solarize and save.”

The greater efficiency, fast falling price, and tax and cost incentives make solar power a cost saving way to power homes.

Craig Dwyer, Senior Director of commercial solar developer Brightergy, based in Charlestown, discussed the technical aspects of home solar installations. He covered roofing requirements, inverters, and how a rooftop PV system connects to the grid with a bidirectional meter.

He recommended buying “Tier 1” panels for the best quality. Solar panels prolong the life of a roof, and help keep them snow free.

Federal and state Incentives for owning or leasing solar photovoltaic panels were also covered, which includes a 30 percent federal investment tax credit for the total installation cost of the system through 2019, net metering credits for excess power that is generated, and tax credits for every megawatt hour produced, currently valued at $275.

Tom Philbin, Westwood’s Energy Manager announced that the Town is bidding out a Solar Opportunity project, in which 1.2-1.5 MW of solar capacity will be installed on several municipal building rooftops, saving an estimated $200,000 a year. He detailed the Town’s numerous energy and cost saving projects, funded largely through $380,000 in Green Community grants and Eversource incentive programs.

At the end of the presentations, a panel of three Westwood residents described how owning, leasing and power purchase agreements worked for them, and all took numerous questions from the audience.

Jan Galkowski explained that in his effort to get off fossil fuel led him to purchase a high efficiency 10 kW system, which has been performing admirably even in his tree shaded lot since December 31. With the tax credit, net metering and SRECs, the $50,000 cost should be paid off in 7 years, with free electricity after that.

WEACt member Emmy Behlau installed a system last year on her east-west facing roofs at no cost, and signed a Power Purchase Agreement with a residential solar developer. She will now pay a low fixed rate of 18 cents per kWh (total) for electricity produced by the PV system to the installer for 20 years, at which time she will own the panels.

John Cummings has been leasing a 33 panel system on his south facing roof for four years to help save the world for his kids. He paid approximately 1/3 the cost of the system as a leased price over 20 years, and has no electric bill from May through October. His return on investment will be 3.5 years. The company gets the tax credit and SRECs, he gets free electricity.

For more information, or to reach any of the presenters or homeowners, join the Westwood Neighbors’ Forum at http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/westwood.

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