EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 6, 2013

Preaching the gospel of solar energy

NORTH ANDOVER — About a year ago, Susan Almono had solar energy panels installed at her house.

Her monthly electric bill, she said, amounts to zero. In fact, the panels have produced a surplus of electricity, so she gets a credit from National Grid, she said.

Would she install the panels if she had it to do over again?

“Absolutely,” said Almono, who is leasing the panels under a 20-year agreement.

Almono and other members of the North Andover Sustainability Committee are trying to persuade other residents to switch to solar energy, which they point out does not pollute the atmosphere.

One promotion method they’re using is good, old-fashioned word of mouth. Almono hopes that by sharing her experiences with solar energy that she can encourage others to at least consider investing in the panels.

While installation of a solar system costs thousands, both the state and federal governments offer tax credits, she pointed out. Ray Geraneo noted that National Grid and other utility companies offer incentives to people who convert to renewable energy systems.

It’s even possible to get zero percent financing, he added.

Geraneo also said solar panels are becoming less expensive. He and other committee members estimated that less than 10 percent of North Andover residents use solar energy.

Smolak Farms uses the power of the sun for some of its energy needs, Geraneo pointed out. Michael Carney said one of his neighbors uses solar power for electricity.

Almono said the committee plans to spread the message about using the energy of the sun by publicizing its advantages at the townwide Earth Day cleanup in April, the Sheep Shearing Festival in May and the Fourth of July Festival.

The committee is also planning to invite speakers who will talk to the community about various energy topics, including solar and other renewable forms.

Craig Lemerise said not every house is a candidate for catching the sun’s rays. If the house does not have the right exposure to the sun, he said, the panels will not be effective.

The organization Mass Save analyzes homes to see if they are suitable for solar energy, Geraneo said.

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