Dracut, NMCOG to provide answers on solar PV systems


DRACUT — The town has teamed up with the Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG) to clear up answers some homeowners with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have through the development of a public educational and consumer protection program.

Rick Minard, NMCOG’s solar energy consultant, will be working with town officials on providing clear language within town bylaws and permitting processes relative to the installation, according to a release issued by Town Manager Jim Duggan. NMCOG, the area’s regional planning agency, will receive technical assistance from the Solar Foundation to implement solar programming in several area cities and towns. The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit organization, leads the expert technical assistance team for SolSmart, a national designation program recognizing communities that address local barriers to solar energy development, according to the release.

“We want to make the consumer more aware of questions they should be asking, or areas they should be aware of in the event that they choose to participate in such an agreement with solar companies,” Duggan said of the new program.

Of the 11,000 residential properties in Dracut, approximately 900 households (or about 10 percent of the single family residences in Dracut) have solar installations, according to the town manager’s release.

According to Duggan, this new, six-month effort is rooted in the problems Dracut residents with solar panels have brought forth to Town Hall. Some of the problems include some solar PV installations being conducted on east facing roofs, which are not efficient in terms of energy and homeowners having to buy out the remainder of their contract with the solar company should they decide to sell their house.

Duggan told The Sun on Monday that the town’s municipal aggregation program prompted homeowners with solar PV systems to ask questions. Dracut’s municipal aggregation program, which began last year, is the bulk buying of electricity with 22 other cities and towns.

“We’re figuring out exactly how the outreach effort is going to be,” said Duggan when asked how the information collected will be distributed to residents.

Solar energy has become increasingly popular in the United States and in Massachusetts. Last year, Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a $15 million initiative aimed at creating hundreds of solar panel and renewable thermal-heating systems over the next several years to low- and moderate-income households.

Middlesex County was the top county in the state in terms of the amount of solar jobs in 2016, with 4,390, according to the Solar Foundation. Essex County followed with 3,334 solar jobs.

“It’s amazing how quickly it’s grown. It’s something that people are putting on their roofs and businesses are putting on their roofs and the number of jobs that are being created is amazing,” Minard said of solar energy. “In the past few years it’s grown a lot. Massachusetts is really one of the lead states in the country in terms of the number of solar installations and the amount of electricity being generated.”

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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8 August 2017 10:30 am
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