By Maggie Cai and Eric Schmid
A new solar power initiative by the town of North Hempstead could bring approximately 900,000kWh per year of solar power to 220,000 residents of the town.
The campaign launched on September 17 and runs until Dec. It is the first of those on Long Island to offer residents a choice between multiple solar providers. It is the fourth community on Long Island to participate in the Solarize campaign.
“It’s not just about having the cheapest price,” Michael Bailis, Co-Founder of SUNation, said. “Because it’s being sponsored by the local village, we have a certain responsibility to the residents.”
The north shore community has partnered with three solar companies, SunPower by EmPower, SUNation Solar Systems and Green Logic Energy. They were chosen through a selection process by submitting proposals to be evaluated by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the town.
“Solarize campaigns organize homes and businesses to install solar as a group and lower project costs,” a spokesperson from NYSERDA said.
Solar energy has seen tremendous growth on Long Island. Between November 2014 and May 2016, the number of solar installations tripled to 30,000 according to NYSERDA and the Public Service Electric and Gas Company on Long Island.
“The number of permits to install solar that North Hempstead has gotten has grown every single year in the past couple of years,” Erin Reilley, Chief Sustainability Officer for North Hempstead, said. She added that Long Island can produce almost as much solar power as Florida can.
Solarize North Hempstead is part of Gov. Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative that allows communities to partner with the state to encourage residents to go solar. Brookhaven, Southampton and Huntington have run similar Solarize campaigns with single solar contractors. According to SUNation, who was responsible for Solarize Brookhaven, in one year, homeowners will save approximately $162,000 dollars. In 20 years, they will save over three million dollars.
“A lot of people don’t think of Long Island as extremely sunny all the time,” Tara Bono, marketing manager of SunPower by EmPower, said. “But we have great weather for solar.”
There are more than 200 solar companies on Long Island out of 652 companies in New York.
The campaign helps ease the daunting process of researching how to switch to solar and serves as an educational tool. “A lot of people who I know would like to do it, they don’t know where to start so I think that’s [solarize] a good vehicle to have,” Frank Spaldo, a North Hempstead resident who signed up for an assessment, said.
The solarize program simplifies and creates clarity for consumers because the solar vendors have been vetted by the towns. The abundance of information about solar power practically paralyzes consumers because they cannot differentiate between good solar and bad solar, Jean-Pierre Clejan, technology executive at Green Logic Energy, said.
“When it comes to solar it’s not something homeowners do through time and get good at it,” Bono said. “It’s something you just do once so it’s really important for people to do their homework and be educated.”
“Energy prices here are high and people want to stay here,” Clejan said. “By spreading the awareness, people can continue to live on Long Island at a lower cost, lower carbon footprint way.”
In previous Solarize campaigns of a similar size, there have been 50 to 100 residents who enter into agreements with contractors to install solar in their homes, but because there are three contractors for Solarize North Hempstead and commercial residents are more encouraged to participate, 100 residents are expected to install solar by December 31st of this year when the campaign ends.