First Solarize Wilton installation

The first solar installation through the Solarize Wilton campaign was opened to the public because homeowner Richard Creeth wanted his fellow community members to partake in the process.

“I wanted people to have a chance to see exactly what goes into it and, frankly, encourage people to consider doing it themselves,” Creeth said at his 250 Catalpa Road home on May 7.

Creeth said that despite the rain, about a dozen members of the community showed up to see the system installed and talk with the installers.

At current electricity prices, he expects to save more than $2,000 each year, now that he’s transitioned 90% of his usage from the utility grid over to his new panels.

“What I’m really saving is kilowatts of power, so if those kilowatts of power cost more next year, I’ll be saving even more, so I’m fixing the price,” Creeth said.

“It’s about an 11-year payback [for me]; after that I’m good,” he said. “I look at it as an investment with a 9% return, and that’s also 9% tax-free. If you look at it that way, it’s a pretty good investment.”

Good investment or not, Creeth has other reasons for making the switch to solar.

As an informed person as well as a member of Wilton’s Energy Commission, he’s concerned for the world and wants to fight back against its slow but sure change in climate.

“The world’s at a crisis point, and some people are in denial about it, but 97% of the world’s scientists agree that global warming is real and it’s here, and we have to do something about it,” Creeth said.

“We talked about this stuff 10 or 15 years ago, but now you can see it, everybody can see that we’re getting more extreme weather around the world, and it’s a direct result of the rising CO2 levels from all the fossil fuels that we’re burning,” he said.

Solarize Connecticut is a state-sponsored incentive program that encourages the adoption of solar power systems by making it more affordable for residents. It’s been going on here since Jan. 12, 2016.

Solarize Wilton is a part of that, but to qualify for the special pricing offered through the program, resident homeowners must sign a contract by May 18.

“If anybody’s interested, definitely call us ASAP and we’ll get out there and make sure they get the Solarize pricing,” said Ross Solar Group solar consultant Warren Hartman at Creeth’s house Saturday during the installation.

Ross Solar Group was the winner of the bid to be Solarize Wilton’s system vendor. According to Hartman, his company won through “a combination of equipment offering, price, professionalism and reputation, and our ability to meet the demand of all these solar installations.”

Thanks to Solarize Wilton’s large-scale but locally focused sphere of influence, Ross Solar Group has been able for months to give Wilton residents better pricing on solar installations.

“The Solarize program is a great, great opportunity for communities to benefit from solar on a large scale, based on economies of scale,” Hartman said. “When you have a lot of people purchasing solar, the cost can be reduced.”

Hartman told The Bulletin that as of May 7, Ross Solar Group had inked more than 25 contracts through Solarize Wilton.

“The town has been fantastic with its outreach,” he said. “The interest in solar has been fantastic; Wilton Go Green has been unbelievable; the Energy Commission has been unbelievable; the town selectmen have been unbelievable — they’ve all been fantastic.”

“They’ve gone above and beyond — they’ve done more than we ever could have hoped for, as far as outreach,” Hartman said.

Hartman told The Bulletin there’s never been a better time to go solar. “The payback used to be 15 years, and now we’re usually between eight and 12,” he said.

The return lies in the difference between a Ross Solar Group system’s 30-year lifespan and the “eight- to 12-year” period the system takes to pay for itself through energy savings.

“These systems are warrantied — they have a lifespan of 30 years and a warranty for 25 years, so even if you bought it [up front] and laid the money out now, you’d earn your money back in eight to 12 years, and then the rest of its life, you’d have free power from the system,” Hartman said.

“The nice thing about it, too, is because it’s an avoided cost, your savings, when you’re no longer paying your energy bill, is a tax-free savings,” he added.

Explaining how energy savings are achieved through solar, Hartman said solar systems work together with established utility grids to store and release power, but it’s power created by sunlight, free of charge.

“It’s almost like the grid’s a huge battery,” he said. “When you’re overproducing, you’re charging it; when you need it, you’re pulling it back, and they don’t charge you anything to store it there.”

“The only thing solar can’t wipe out is your basic service fee, which is currently $19.25 [each month] for Eversource customers. That’s the one thing we can’t do anything about,” Hartman said.

“When you look at it, it just makes sense,” Hartman said. “This particular homeowner, he’s going to earn his money back in 11 years, and then he’ll have all this power for free.”