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July 22, 2014
A Sunny Day in Harvard
Last month, state and local officials joined Harvard residents and volunteers to celebrate the opening of the Harvard Solar Garden, which allows residents and small business owners whose properties are not well-suited for solar to ‘plug in’ to a community-owned solar project.
The project was a long time coming, and is a shining example of what can happen when partners come together to tackle an issue – in this case allowing all residents and business owners to access the benefits of solar energy.
The project arose out of the town's participation in the first round of Solarize Mass, a partnership between MassCEC, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), solar installers, local government officials and dedicated volunteers in communities across the Commonwealth. The program aims to increase the adoption of solar through grassroots outreach and a tiered pricing model, in which the savings increase for everyone as more contracts are signed. Solarize has led to the contracting of more than 1,500 solar electric systems since 2011.
Through the course of the town's participation in Solarize Mass, several residents and business owners found they were unable to have solar electric systems installed on their properties due to poor site conditions, such as shading or roof orientation.
Undeterred, the residents worked with partners at the state and local level to create a framework in which residents and small business owners are able to own a portion of the large solar electric system and receive the same benefits, incentives and rebates they would if the system was on their own roof.
The Harvard Solar Garden, which was designed and constructed by Harvard-based Solar Design Associates, is a 294-kilowatt solar electric system that is jointly-owned by four small businesses and 43 residents who live in Harvard, Bolton, Northampton, Florence, Belchertown, Billerica, and Worcester.
Though the project is one of the first of its kind in Massachusetts, we know it won't be the last!