In late 2015, AIPC launched Solarize Aquidneck, a comprehensive program to encourage Island homeowners to install solar panels. The project is one of several “Solarize” projects around the state, and the first to involve three separate municipalities. We developed the project in partnership with the Towns of Middletown and Portsmouth, the City of Newport, and the R.I. Office of Energy Resources. Although sign-ups for the program ended in February, 2016, many of the solar systems that are now being installed on Aquidneck Island were contracted under the Solarize Aquidneck program.
Solarize Aquidneck provided several important incentives to motivate Island homeowners to “go solar:”
- Outreach to raise homeowners’ awareness of the benefits of solar installation.
- A group buying cooperative to encourage solar installers to compete on price.
- A “turn-key” process to take homeowners from sign up, through system design, financing, permitting, installation and hook-up.
- Connection of homeowners with state grants and federal tax incentives to further reduce the net cost of installation.
- Oversight to ensure that participating installers were reputable firms, established and fully licensed in Rhode Island.
PROGRESS & IMPLEMENTATION
In late 2015 and early 2016, AIPC held an Island-wide workshop about the program, followed by workshops in each of the three communities.
The Solarize Aquidneck team selected three solar installers for the Island through a competitive bidding process, and assigned each installer the lead marketing role in one community. The selected installers were Newport Solar for Newport, RGS Energy for Middletown, and Direct Energy Solar for Portsmouth. Homeowners in any community could request a quote and choose to work with any of the three installers; however they would only receive direct marketing materials from the lead installer for their town. The sign-up period ended in February of 2016.
To help homeowners save money while creating a cleaner and more sustainable energy supply for Aquidneck Island.
The results of Solarize Aquidneck exceeded expectations. Nearly 160 homeowners signed installation contracts for more than 500 kW of installed solar capacity, generating more than $4.3 million in economic activity – including many local businesses. One solar installer reported that his company doubled in size in order to keep up with installations prompted by Solarize Aquidneck.
On average, Solarize Aquidneck is providing about $3000 in value (savings and/or income) for participating homeowners, annually. Further, the program is helping to create a greener, more sustainable, and more energy-independent Aquidneck Island.
Now that Solarize Aquidneck is nearly complete, AIPC is working with Island municipalities and other partners to find more ways that communities, businesses and individuals can save money by creating a cleaner, more sustainable energy system on Aquidneck Island.