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Mass Innovations, From The Beacon, December 2019
The city of Salem and the towns of Swampscott and Nahant are collaborating on a new solar marketing campaign, Solarize North Shore, directed at home and business owners to promote and implement solar panels, air source heat pumps (also known as “mini-splits”), and solar hot water.
Each community works with the Solarize Mass Plus program, sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and Department of Energy Resources. The vendors selected to work with the program offer up to 21% off costs to home and business owners who sign up through the program. Other communities, including Belchertown, Needham, North Adams and Williamstown, are also are participating in the program, some with different vendors and options.
The vendors chosen for the North Shore are Boston Solar, New England Ductless, and New England Solar Hot Water.
“Solarize Mass Plus provides affordable access to these clean energy technologies, saving residents money on their energy bills and reducing our emissions citywide,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. “It continues our ongoing work here in Salem to reduce our own local carbon footprint, including through the conversion of our streetlights to LED fixtures, our electricity supply aggregation, and rooftop solar on city buildings.”
The joint campaign has been in the works for more than a year and is a month into six months of planned outreach. With help from volunteers, the communities are hosting special “meet the vendors” events, putting out flyers and online materials, and setting up tables at public events. Each community has a designated “solar coach” to help interested people learn more about the program and to connect them with vendors to find out what options are best for them.
“We want to make sure that residents and business owners are empowered to make these decisions and know that they can make a difference, instead of leaving it to large commercial installations,” said Ryan Hale, the community solar coach for Swampscott.
“It’s important to try to get everyone in the community involved,” said Esmeralda Bisono, community solar coach for Salem. “We have a thriving and diverse community, so planning events in different areas and translating materials into different languages is important.”
While Salem and Swampscott had previously joined forces in the Solarize Mass Plus program in 2015, Nahant is a new addition. During the process of applying to the Green Communities program, the town’s Green Communities Committee realized it was too small to meet some of the requirements and needed to great creative to show its commitment to renewable energy. Nahant Green Communities Coordinator Neal Duffy recommended that the town connect with neighbors.
“It was really exciting to develop a tri-community campaign,” said Ellen Shana Goldberg, community solar coach in Nahant. “It became this organic collaborative process that has developed into this North Shore solarize campaign, and if that can be replicated that would be exciting for solar, renewable and the whole state.”
Salem is hosting a Meet the Installers night on Dec. 9. Public events held in Swampscott and Nahant had solid turnout, according to Hale and Goldberg.
“The more we can educate communities about this process,” Goldberg said, “and the more each coach and volunteers can spread the word, the more this program will be a success.”
The campaign also recognizes that the three communities are different sizes and have different demographics, income levels and priorities.
“We are able to tap into different values and experiences with sharing what we are learning, creating repeatability,” said Hale. “And it’s fun to work with your neighbors on a program that will have a tangible positive impact on the environment.”
To learn more about this collaborative campaign, or to connect with a solar coach, visit the campaign website: solarizenorthshore.org.