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Earth Matters

Sustainable Saturday: Solarize Nyack

Sustainable Saturday is sponsored by Green Meadow Waldorf School, Maria Luisa Boutique and Strawtown Studio.

by Susan Hellauer
The sun is about to set on Solarize Nyack, a joint local and New York State effort that offers discounts on solar power installations to all Rockland residential and business customers.
Homeowners have until close of business on August 1 — commercial property owners until August 31 — to sign up for a free no-obligation assessment to take advantage of the hyper-vetted solar installers and one-time Solarize discounts on a clean energy future.

What is Solarize Nyack?

Maria Luisa Nyack Solarize

Maria Luisa Whittingham, proprietor of Nyack’s Maria Luisa, is in the Solarize pipeline.

Solarize Nyack, which kicked off last March, is part of the three-year Sustainable Hudson Valley program funded by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). It teams local volunteers with selected contractors to increase awareness about the benefits of solar power for homes and businesses. The program keeps prices down through group purchase discounts and by choosing installers whose businesses have met the program’s stringent requirements.
Solarize’s goal of increasing residential and commercial solar power installations supports NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious “moon shot” target of 50% renewable energy in New York State by 2030.
And that moonshot may not be a longshot: Orangetown’s Building Department has seen a steady increase in solar permits in the past five years – from a single permit in 2011 to 97 in 2015.

Why Solarize works

A major barrier to going solar is the fear of selecting the wrong contractor whose work and prices aren’t guaranteed. NYSERDA’s Solarize initiative vets its installers to make sure they charge fair prices and will warranty their work.
Solarize Nyack’s two approved project installers — Apex Solar Power and Sunrise Solar Solutions — are available to give advice on which system will work best (rooftop or ground mounted) and whether it makes sense to lease or buy.
But If solar is not right for you for any reason (too much shade, roof configuration, very low energy demand . . . ), you won’t suffer any arm twisting. The program is designed to create lots of happy customers, who will promote the value of going solar to their neighbors and friends via word of mouth.

How much can Solarize save you?

“If a homeowner finances a system through the subsidized energy efficiency loan programs offered by NY State, they will average a 30% savings on their electric bill in the first year,” says Sunrise Solar Solutions’ Rand Manasse. “With electric rates increasing year over year, that savings can grow after five years to around a few thousand dollars. Over the 20-30 year lifetime of each system, the savings is $50,000 to $60,000,” says Manasse.

Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart (r.) and daughter Talia support Solarize

Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart (r.) and daughter Talia support Solarize

John Wackman, Program Manager of the regional umbrella Solarize Hudson Valley, says the program is a good deal for consumers because of the unique savings offered through this program which include a 10% group discount offered by the installers, federal and state tax credits and NYSERDA’s Affordable Solar incentive.
Homeowners typically recoup their investment in 7–9 years, enjoying no or low electric bills. Wackman cites his own real-life small solar installation that dropped from just over $11,000 to less than $5,000 through a combination of Solarize, tax credits and other savings. “The central promise of our program,” he says, “is to be able to offer a solar system that will deliver annual energy savings that exceed the annual cost of financing–resulting in positive cash flow from the day your system is turned on–and for years to come.”
Some solar customers, adds Wackman, are attracted by the potential increase in their home or building’s property value.

Keep fossil fuels in the ground . . .

South Nyack's Nicole Barbatos is already happily solar. Photo: Marcy Denker

South Nyack’s Nicole Barbatos is already happily solar. Photo: Marcy Denker

. . . where they belong, according to many who seek solar and other clean energy sources.
That was the prime motivation for Nyack resident Gini Stolldorf who, along with her husband, wanted to switch to clean energy, but didn’t know how to find the right installer. “For years, solar has seemed like the thing to do, since the sun is out there,” says Stolldorf. “I could have gone on the internet and found four million installers, and suddenly there are companies right here in Nyack that look and sound good, so we said ‘This is it!’”
Sunrise Solar’s Rand Manasse cites a typical example of fossil fuel offset: “A home that uses 10,000 kilowatt hours per year would have NOT used 7,500 pounds of coal.”
You can calculate how much carbon your solar installation will keep stashed away with the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

It ain’t over ’til . . .

Solarize workshop at Nyack Center. Photo: Annie Hekker

Solarize workshop at Nyack Center. Photo: Annie Hekker

The special 10% Solarize group discount for homeowners and guaranteed installers at your beck and call will be gone after August 1, and, like the Solarize program itself, won’t be back here again. State and federal incentives, however, like Affordable Solar and tax credits will remain available.

How to sign up for Solarize Nyack

Signing up for a free assessment locks in the significant Solarize discount and assures a worry-free, guaranteed installation. But never fear: there won’t be any unfortunate fallout if you decide to say “No.” According to Sunrise Solar’s Rand Manasse, “signing up does not create any obligation. All you need to do is sign on for a free assessment before the deadline and then make a decision in a reasonable timeframe to get the discount.”
To sign up for the free assessment, call 646-302-5835, or visit the Solarize Hudson Valley website.

Wrapping up Solarize Nyack

Affordable Solar:                               major help for modest incomes

Affordable Solar expands access to solar energy to households most in need of the electricity cost reductions. It doubles the 40 cents per installed watt incentives provided by the NY-Sun program for households earning less than 80 percent of their county’s median income.
Check the income eligibility requirements for your county.
Get the one-page Affordable Solar application.

A number of Solarize projects are underway, with site surveys and design completed. Some installations are already in progress. “We usually tell clients that it will take a few months, more or less, to get up and running,” says Sunrise Solar’s Rand Manasse, but adds that every installation is a “custom fit” and has unique aspects.
As the project wraps up, Nyack’s Sustainability Coordinator and local Solarize spearhead Marcy Denker has a list of people to acknowledge for their hard work and support of this eight-month green community effort: “Our local team—Chrissy Place, Maria Whittingham, Annie Hekker, Kathy Schwarz and Adam Tracey all found time to help with planning and outreach.”

Marcy Denker, Nyack's Sustainability Coordinator: assessed and Solarize-ready

Marcy Denker, Nyack’s Sustainability Coordinator: assessed and Solarize-ready

She adds that Solarize has had the full support of Nyack Mayor Jen White, the Village Board, and Orangetown Supervisors Andy Stewart and Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann.
Denker also says that she picked up strategies and made alliances that will help in future sustainability campaigns. “We did get the word out about Solarize Nyack beyond our borders into Clarkstown and Orangetown, and teaming up like this is something we need to keep doing,” she says.
See also:

Next Week: Ten Ways to Bring Green Infrastructure Home

Sustainable Saturdays, a weekly feature that focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living, is sponsored by Green Meadow Waldorf School, Maria Luisa Boutique and Strawtown Studio.

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Nyack Farmer's Market

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