WILLIAMSTOWN -- A presentation aims to inform residents and small business owners about how adding solar panels to properties is about to become more affordable.
"Solar 101," which will take place at Williamstown Elementary School on Tuesday at 7 p.m., is the first stage of the SolarizeMASS program, which the town was accepted into in early April.
"[Solar 101] will go into basics of solar electricity and how it will work for residents and small businesses to take control of their energy future," Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC) Spokesperson Matt Kakley said.
The three-year-old program brings individuals, private solar developers and state entities together to facilitate small-scale solar projects. The program's model features a tiered pricing structure that uses group buying power, meaning the more residents who participate in the program, the lower the overall cost will be for everyone.
Ten other cities and towns join Williamstown as new participants, including Brookline, Lee and Northampton. Ten others will be chosen in a second round this fall, Kakley said.
Williamstown's application was facilitated by members of the COOL (Carbon Dioxide Lowering) Committee, an entity charged with lowering the town's carbon output.
COOL Committee member Wendy Penner said North Adams engineer Jake Laughner was chosen as Williamstown's solar coach. As solar coach, Laughner will manage the outreach and education efforts of community volunteers and answer questions about solar photovoltaics.
"He will be present at the [Solar 101] event, along with someone from the CEC," she said.
The next step is choosing a solar contractor, Penner said.
"That's when we'll be able to set a pricing structure," she explained.
According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Resources, the average price residents in 2012 SolarizeMASS communities paid per watt for a solar installation was just under $4. With the average system size being 6.36 kW, the average system cost about $25,000.
The average price per watt in those communities prior to their participation in the program was $5.25, meaning a comparatively sized system would've cost about $33,000.
Kakley said a few weeks after the Solar 101 event, a "Meet your Installer" event will be held.
"That will be a follow up on the Solar 101 meeting, and will go into more specific installer proposals and the next steps on signing up for site assessments," he said.
Kakley said the program had a tremendous response in the 17 participating communities in 2012. There were over 5,000 parties interested in signing up for solar arrays, he said, with approximately 800 contracts being signed with various solar developers for the creation of 5,126 kW of solar energy.
Nearly every community doubled the amount of solar energy it had prior to its acceptance into the SolarizeMASS program, Kakley said.
To reach Edward Damon, email