Going solar does not need to be expensive. In Connecticut, as in most states, there are state as well as federal programs that offer tax credits to defray the admittedly substantial initial outlay. Many companies that sell and install solar systems, however, offer plans that require very little if any money upfront. They offer leasing options as well as pay-as-you-use plans. Going solar also does not necessarily mean going solar for the entire home’s energy needs. There are systems that use solar for hot water and those that tie into the power grid, which obviates the need for storage batteries and ensures a reliable power source. Going solar is not for everyone, not yet, but it is becoming easier and more affordable, especially as there are more companies, options and government help than ever before.
Connecticut has plenty of sunshine most of the year – but New England winters (and even spring and autumn) can be cloudy and stormy. A full solar system, complete with batteries to store energy generated on sunny days, can and does work well for many businesses, homes and organizations, as the Kohler Environmental Center at Choate in Wallingford can attest. Still, going completely solar is not for everyone, and not everyone is comfortable with depending solely on the sun for heating and power. Fortunately, going solar is not an all-or-nothing proposition.
Going Solar is Not an All-or-Nothing Proposition
Going solar can be as simple and as small as installing a system to provide hot water, or it can be a full-flown conversion that removes the home from the power grid. Most homeowners go somewhere in between, explains Robert A. Trezza of Connecticut Sun and Power in New Milford. Going entirely “off-grid” is the ideal green solution, but with Connecticut’s often cloudy and stormy weather, to ensure a reliable source of energy at all times means installing storage batteries. Many of his customers over the last 30 years, explains Trezza, prefer to remain tied into Connecticut Light and Power or one of the other utility companies, if only for the peace of mind of being able to use the power company as a back-up.
The Sun is Free but Collecting its Energy is Not
“Harvesting the sun” to provide light, heat, hot water and other power needs is now do-able, explain the engineers at American Solar and Alternative Power in Stamford, but it can be expensive. Although the materials and systems used to collect and turn sunlight into energy continue to become more efficient, they are not cheap. It is not unusual for a homeowner to start small – like putting in solar to heat their pool or supply hot water for the home, two options Aegis Solar Energy of Branford is highly experienced in providing.
Rebates, Tax Credits and Other Incentives
The federal government offers considerable tax credit incentives for homes and businesses that go solar – enough to cover up to 30 percent of the cost. So does the state of Connecticut, notably through the Connecticut Clean Energy Program. There are also other “photovoltaic incentive programs” available throughout the Northeast, adds Danbury’s Ross Solar Group. Some towns, for example, also have programs of their own. Canton, West Hartford, Coventry, Mansfield and many other towns offer residents assistance and incentives as part of the broader “Solarize Connecticut” program. Some utility companies and suppliers, notably Viridian with whom Solar City in Rocky Hill works, will also give discounts to customers who go solar but buy power as needed from the grid through Viridian. Almost every company that installs solar has people on its staff who know how to navigate the maze of options and how to help customers get the most help.
Lease and Pay-as-you-use Options
A number of solar installers offer plans that allow homeowners to go solar without putting a lot – or even any – money down. At Solar City in Rocky Hill, for example, it offer a pay-by-the-kilowatt hour option. In other words, a customer pays based on how much energy is generated by the solar system they use. There is even a pre-pay option where the homeowner buys the energy his system will generate before he uses it, but at a discount. Installation – and removal if desired – is free, at least at Solar City, and at the five-year mark it offered the customer the option to either upgrade if newer technology is available or to buy the system outright. Solar City, like many installers, also offers a monthly leasing program which also can be converted. The beauty of these options is that little or no money is required up front, and customers can basically test drive the solar option to see if it is right for them.
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.