What is a solarize program?
Even if you’ve been hearing about Solarize programs lately (like Solarize RI, Solarize CT, or Solarize NY), you might not know what “solarizing” your home or neighborhood actually entails. Solarize is sometimes confused with community solar, but in reality the two terms refer to completely different solar options. So what does this trendy verb mean, and who does it apply to?
Community solar refers to “shared” solar, which means that many people subscribe to one massive solar array instead of having solar panels installed on their individual roofs. Solarize is a way for an entire community to save money on solar by motivating everyone in the neighborhood to put panels on their rooftops. While community solar typically attracts people who don’t have ideal roofs for solar, the Solarize concept is meant to save people money by group purchasing systems from one solar installer for many homeowners in a single community. You can think of Solarize as the “it’s better to buy in bulk” approach to solar.
While there is no set process for how a Solarize campaign is created or organized, the Department of Energy put forth a handy Solarize Guidebook that’s worth checking out. Some Solarize programs have been run by state governments, some are run by installers themselves, and some are run by community organizations. A single company is usually chosen by the entity launching the campaign to serve as the solar installer for a community’s Solarize program.
To garner as much attention and community engagement as possible, the chosen solar installer typically launches a six-month campaign to teach community members about the benefits of solar PV. Because of volume discounts, the solar company can offer a price that’s often lower than what an individual homeowner could find on their own. In fact, the cost of installing solar tends to fall significantly as more and more people participate in a Solarize program.
Solarize campaigns are taking off in the U.S., especially in a few particularly active states such as Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. We’ll explain why Solarize is leading in these top three states and what you should do if your community wants to participate in a Solarize program.
Why Rhode Island loves solarize programs
The RI Solarize initiative has been in action for three years and has already helped roughly 400 residents and small businesses go solar. In fact, much of the Ocean State’s solar growth over the past few years can be attributed to Solarize – last year’s fall campaign alone generated 250 Solarize contracts and 1,700 kilowatts of installed solar for Rhode Island.
The state government plays a crucial role in planning and organizing Solarize campaigns across the state. Rather than installers being the major initiating force, RI’s Office of Energy Resources works to select qualified providers and connect communities with those solar installers to start the Solarize process. This makes Solarize a well-known and easily accessible incentive in RI, unlike many other U.S. states where the concept of Solarize is still fairly abstract.
These are the active Solarize programs in Rhode Island and the chosen solar installers for each community:
- Providence – SolarFlair
- Bristol – Direct Energy Solar (an EnergySage-approved installer)
- Warren – Sol Power (an EnergySage-approved installer)
Check out EnergySage’s Solar Data Explorer for Rhode Island learn more about the costs & benefits of going solar in the Ocean State.
Solarize CT: why Connecticut is leading the way for bulk purchase
To date, the Solarize Connecticut initiative has helped over 2,000 CT residents go solar in nearly 60 communities. The Connecticut Green Bank has been the primary driving force behind Solarize in the Constitution State. Non-profit clean energy advisor SmartPower is also involved in the program. They answer questions for homeowners interested in Solarize and act as an informational resource for anyone wondering if his or her community qualifies for this great opportunity to save money on a PV installation. Sunlight Solar, an EnergySage-approved installer, is one of the chosen installers for Solarize CT.
Here are the towns in Connecticut that have active Solarize campaigns to date (according to the Solarize CT website):
- East Hampton
Take a look at EnergySage’s Solar Data Explorer for Connecticut learn more about the costs & benefits of going solar in the Constitution State.
Solarize New York: a budding location for the solarize initiative
New York State is another good example of a Solarize initiative that is primarily promoted and organized by the state government, specifically the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). NYSERDA – an EnergySage supporter & investor – has the mission is to promote energy efficiency, grow the use of renewable resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Empire State.
Solarize is a major force in achieving NYSERDA’s mission. Considering the New York State Solar Tax Credit is one of the best in the nation, taking an additional 25 percent off the cost of your solar system on top of the Federal ITC, it’s no question that solar is thriving in NY. The Solarize New York program takes it a step further.
Another perk of NY’s Solarize program is the development of the campaign and level of information available. For example, NYSERDA’s Solarize Campaign Tracker offers an interactive map of all Solarize initiatives in the state, with information about towns that have previously Solarized and towns with active Solarize programs. Furthermore, New York City’s bold goal to install 250 megawatts of residential PV by 2025 has lead to some city-specific Solarize activity in the Big Apple.
Try using EnergySage’s Solar Data Explorer for New York learn more about the costs & benefits of going solar in the Empire State.
How to help bring solarize programs to your community
The ultimate point of Solarize is to foster a “strength in numbers” mentality for homeowners and allow them to guarantee a good price from a quality installer. Additionally, Solarize majorly benefits installers – giving a solar company the opportunity to install multiple systems in one neighborhood is more cost-effective and efficient then their typical process for finding and securing business. Depending on what state you live in, you will either find information about Solarize initiatives through your municipal or state government or from local installers and financiers.
In addition to seeking out Solarize opportunities, make sure you and your entire community registers your properties on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to get competing bids from other pre-screened installers in your area. You can even use the Marketplace to compare external quotes you’ve already received through a Solarize campaign – more than 30 percent of EnergySage users join the site with quotes in hand. In many cases, even the discounts you receive through a Solarize program will not be as high as those you find on a competitive marketplace like EnergySage. For those just seeking a ballpark estimate for what solar would cost and save them in the long run, try our Solar Calculator instead.