Freeport tries to cut cost of solar energy projects for residents

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FREEPORT — The town is trying to reduce the cost of solar energy equipment for residents by encouraging enough people to sign up so Freeport can qualify for bulk pricing.

If successful, it would be the first bulk purchase of solar equipment by a Maine municipality.

The Solarize Freeport effort was launched in November to “increase the production of renewable energy in Freeport,” according to town planner Donna Larson. The town partnered with Insource Renewables of Pittsfield and Assured Solar Energy of North Yarmouth to implement the program.

The program’s primary service is installation of solar panels.

To qualify for bulk pricing, residents must sign up by May 2 at noon. The solar energy systems would then be installed at their homes or businesses between May and October.

“By having the community come together and buy in bulk, homeowners can reduce the cost of the system quite significantly,” Insource Renewables owner Vaughan Woodruff said.

According to a press release from Larson, the town has the names of almost 200 Freeport residents who have said they are interested in joining the program. These names were collected on Election Day as people were leaving the polls.

Woodruff said around 50 other people have signed up on the website requesting to be on a mailing list for more information, and an additional 30 people have requested a free quote on the Solarize Freeport website.

Woodruff said the interest they’ve seen so far will definitely help cut the price of buying and installing solar equipment.

“By engaging the entire community in the process, we’re predicting that we’re going to bring down our sales cost by roughly $40,000 to $60,000 for the 200 to 250 families that we expect will participate in this process,” he said.

Larson said this will save each family more than $1,000.

“The prices that are being offered through Solarize Freeport will bring the installed price down by about 10 percent, or about $1,500 for an average sized system, if enough families sign up,” Larson said in a press release.

Larson said Freeport’s Comprehensive Plan encourages “the use of renewable energy to ensure reliable electricity.” Woodruff applauded the town’s plan, especially because Solarize Freeport is the first effort to buy solar energy equipment in bulk in the state.

“The town of Freeport is pretty progressive in its Comprehensive Plan,” Woodruff said.

In the months leading up to the May 2 deadline, Insource Renewables and Assured Solar Energy will be working to educate residents about solar energy systems. An informational meeting will be held March 7 at 9 a.m. at Town Hall.

Woodruff said one thing people should know about solar energy, and one reason many people switch to solar, is that costs are more stable and consistent. He said traditional energy costs are usually unpredictable and that people often switch to solar energy so they’ll know what they’ll be paying each month.

Woodruff said having solar energy equipment has become more common in recent years.

“It’s really getting to the point where (solar energy) is becoming mainstream,” Woodruff said. “Solarize Freeport is really capitalizing on that.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theofrecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.