Council holds off on joining residential solar program

Solarize Connecticut

Solarize Connecticut

The Town Council chose to hold off on joining a residential solar plan known as Solarize Connecticut.

The matter was tabled at a Town Council meeting on July 11 after much discussion surrounding whether the town should join the program, which requires the endorsement of a specific solar supplier.

Solarize Connecticut is a community outreach model that aims to encourage residential solar power use in communities throughout the state. The program, according to their website, promotes the use of pre-selected solar installers, special pricing, town-supported outreach, and a clear end date for services.

According to the organization’s website, the state has seen 2,000 residents in 58 communities switch over to solar power, and the towns of Fairfield, Hebron, Clinton, and Coventry have joined Solarize Connecticut.

Under the program, Southington Town Councilors would interview several solar companies and then choose one to promote through the program.

SmartPower, a non-profit marketing firm, spoke to the council about Solarize Connecticut, giving a presentation to the council in June. Representative Chamae Mejias said that the program has looked at 80 eligible solar companies, and narrowed down nine selections for the most affordable and fitting vendors.

Meijas said there is no charge for bringing the program to Southington, and residents could see up to a 30-percent tax credit and other financial incentives. The program’s campaign would involve sending out a letter letting residents know about the program, and hosting an educational workshop to teach residents about solar, and inform them of the town’s chosen vendor.

Several councilors at the July 11 meeting voiced concerns about the process of endorsing a vendor.

Councilor John Barry (D), said he was concerned with “the concept that it was a monopoly”

“I don’t believe that we in the town should get involved in the economics of this,” said Councilor Tom Lombardi (R), who said he was opposed to giving an advantage to one specific non-profit and one solar company.

Town manager Garry Brumback said that residents would be able to contract with whatever company they chose, but the town would be endorsing one company. Brumback said there would be “a preferred or recommended installer”, but residents could use any installer they would like.

Councilor Dawn Miceli (D) said she was concerned with the fact that the town will have to “market” the endorsed company, and Brumback agreed that the largest concern was the council choosing one company. “It’s the gravity of this body endorsing one body over the other nine.”

Palmieri said from his own experience, he would “encourage residents to do their own research,” when selecting solar for their home.

Considering the potential tax rebates, Barry said that he supported the potential savings and the voluntary nature of the program. Barry said that he also supported the educational component. “This program could help people be better educated about the options,” said Barry.

Riccio asked is there were still opportunities for community education on solar power through Solarize Connecticut, if the town did not vote to support one company.

Brumback said he would contact Solarize Connecticut to see if it would be possible to benefit from other aspects of the program, including the educational efforts, without endorsing a specific solar vendor.

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