Here Come [More] Sun: Solar Installation Exceeds Year Goal in Three Months

Photo: The logo and challenge of Belmont Goes Solar.

For supporters of solar power in Belmont, the past six months has been heady times as the popularity of the alternative energy source has gone through the roof.

Or, more appropriately, going ONTO the roofs of Belmont homeowners.

Since the implementation of a solar power policy for homeowners and small commercial businesses on Sept. 30, 2015 and the efforts of a newly-established volunteers group, the number of homes that have and are in the process of installing solar arrays has increased fivefold, according to Roger Colton, the co-chair of the town’s Energy Committee, told the Light Board on Monday, March 14.

The Light Board, which oversees the town’s electrical utility, is made up of the Board of Selectmen.

Capitalizing on a 30 percent federal investment tax credit, a discount from installer Direct Energy Solar, the establishment of a stable tariff that provided solar companies “a level of financial certainty” and the efforts of the two-month-old Belmont Goes Solar campaign, the number of homes with solar panels has shot up from 25 on Oct. 1, to 125 qualified and ready for solar installation, already exceeding the goal of 100 homes for 2016 in just 10 weeks.

“Demand is going up, day after day,” said Colton, who heads the Belmont Goes Solar Initiative.

Producing a map of installations, Colton, said the homes with solar power panels is literally everywhere in Belmont, and, which Colton said in the parlance of young people, “that’s ‘very cool’.” 

The Goes Solar campaign is supported by Belmont Light, the Belmont Public Schools, the Board of Selectmen, Sustainable Belmont, and the local chapter of Mothers Out Front. 

“It shows that when the community works together, programs to improve the community work,” said Colton. 

Since it reached its goal of 100 households going solar, Direct Energy Solar is donating $25,000 to the town towards a solar system on a Belmont school or a municipal building.

Due to the rapid number of residents seeking to install solar arrays, the Light Board – with a nod of approval from the town’s electrical utility, Belmont Light, and the Temporary Net Metering Working Group that created Belmont’s solar policy – has lifted the 1,000 kW ceiling on capacity as Belmont residents have already exceeded the amount.

While supportive of suspending the cap, Roy Epstein, the working group’s chair, said he wanted a date specific in the fall when to revisit establishing a new limit.

Colton encourages Belmont residents to sign-up for a free solar evaluation of their home. More than 70 percent of the homes that have signed-up for an assessment thus far, he notes, “qualified” for the installation of solar panels. 

The next opportunity for residents to meet and talk personally with Belmont Goes Solar volunteers and Direct Energy Solar staff will be Saturday, April 2 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at a “Meet the Installer” event at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. The presentation will also address the particular circumstances of condo owners. 

Belmont homeowners can sign-up for a free solar assessment here