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Shine On!

The sun is within reach for Blacksburg, Virginia, home and business owners thanks to a new program called Solarize Blacksburg. For the first time, Blacksburg residents can go solar for no up-front cost, with roughly the same cost per month as their existing electricity bill, while locking in current utility rates.

The program is a partnership between CHP, the Town of Blacksburg, VA SUN (a statewide solar development and advocacy non-profit), local solar installers Baseline Solar and Solar Connexion, and local residents.

Solarize Blacksburg seeks to dramatically expand solar energy use in Blacksburg in 2014 by using bulk purchasing to make solar affordable through economies of scale, standardized pricing, and streamlined financing. Bulk purchasing, an idea similar to buying wholesale or in large quantities at stores like Costco, allows Blacksburg homeowners to save money on the price of solar by contracting for installations as a group, which drives down the overall cost of installations.

“Finding new and more affordable ways to provide sustainable energy is so important to the town as we move forward, “ said Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam. “We cannot continue to operate in the past. This project, which makes solar energy more affordable, is vital to the town's future.”

Mason Cavell, CHP’s Energy Programs Director, remarked, “I’ve heard over and over from my neighbors that they’d go solar in a heartbeat, if only the numbers penciled out. Well, we sharpened our pencils, and made the numbers work. We lined up the discounts, secured the loan programs, and streamlined the process. It’s easy and cost effective.”

In order to make solar energy cost the same as standard electricity, the Solarize Blacksburg program combines the bulk discounts, a 30 percent federal tax credit,and electricity savings with long-term financing. The loan payments on a solar system for a typical house will now equal the electricity savings, while protecting the homeowner or business from increases in electricity prices in the future.

The Solarize Blacksburg program is a key component of Blacksburg’s wider efforts to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals, part of the Blacksburg Climate Action Plan. Additionally, it could help Blacksburg win the Georgetown University Energy Prize which comes with a $5 million award to the town or county in Virginia with the highest reduction in energy purchases, either through increased energy efficiency or through renewable energy production.

Homeowners or businesses interested in learning more about going solar or participating in the bulk purchase campaign may go to www.solarizeblacksburg.org or email Cavell at mcavell@chpc2.org to get started.