For a town its size, Asheville has earned some very large titles; one of the “Best Outside Towns,” “Beer City USA,” and the nation’s “Greenest Dining Destination.” This last accolade was the result of the visionary work of the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute, (BRSI) whose Green Dining Initiative put Asheville solidly on the map for foodies that value healthy, low-impact, and local culinary experiences. What great community achievement might this fair city lay claim to next?
If Katie Bray, who recently joined the BRSI team, is successful in spearheading their newest campaign, Solarize Asheville, there’s the potential Asheville could be called the “Most Solarized City in the Southeast” or maybe even “Solar City USA”… wouldn’t that be sweet! Solarize is a templated community solar model based on nearly a dozen campaigns across the nation. Portland, Oregon was home to the first Solarize campaign, where it led to over 500 residential solar installations. Under the SunShot Program, the Department of Energy (DOE) created the Solararize Guidebook, which provides the general structure for other communities to adopt.
While every Solarize campaign is adapted to each community’s unique needs, resources and infrastructure, the model tackles three major market barriers: cost, complexity, and customer inertia. By bringing group purchasing power to neighborhoods through Solarize, the cost of a solar installation can be significantly reduced. (The Solarize Asheville pricing is 26% less than the 2012 state average!) As Bray reported in a recent press release, “The cost of installing solar exceeds the price of inverters, panels, racking, and labor. There are also the “soft” costs… but a lot can be done to reduce them, and that is what we’ve done for Asheville residents.”
The Asheville program offers five-tiered pricing, with the savings becoming more substantial as more people sign up. Through educational outreach, the initiative also aims to streamline and simplify the decision-making process that can often overwhelm homeowners that are interested in solar energy. The pre-selection of a qualified and certified installer is a critical aspect of that value, and this was done through a competitive bid process through which the BRSI team, with assistance from the DOE, examined experience, product offering, pricing, and service, as well as community engagement. Sundance Power Systems, a local leading renewable energy company, was chosen for their proven capacity and brought into partnership on this exciting initiative.
“Our entire Team is honored to have been awarded this project; our proposal represents the strength of the services we have worked hard to develop over the last 18 years,’ said Erika Schneider, Director of Communications with Sundance Power Systems. “This initiative has the potential to bring solar to the Asheville community on a significant scale, and we’re very excited about that.”