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Going solar, nearly one year later

By Eric Fisher

BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (WGGB) — Sure you’ve seen stories about solar installations. People smiling, happy to be purchasing those bright and shiny PV (photovoltaic) panels. But does the math end up working out?

abc40 visited Marc Zawistowski, a homeowner in Belchertown, to find out. Zawistowski had his array installed by Alteris Renewables in December 2009. When asked if it was worth the effort, his response was emphatic.

“It’s absolutely amazing. It has far exceeded my expectations and I’m thrilled,” gushes Zawistowski.

When he purchased the system, he estimated that it would pay for itself in 4 to 5 years. As of early May of 2010, he’s well ahead of schedule. In fact, it may pay for itself in just a year or two.

“In just a couple of months we’ve gotten down to ground zero, meaning that I’m getting as much energy as I need for my family of four,” says Zawistowski.

His system is a 5 kilowatt array, which generally costs in the area of $27,000. That’s a lot of sticker shock for some people. But according to Andreas Schmid of Alteris Renewables, no one ends up paying that much.

“You can take $5,000 to 10,000 right of the top for state rebates,” says Schmid.

There are also a number of federal tax incentives available, and there are programs meant to help homeowners get started.

For instance, Marc is using SunRun, a company that provides a solar array and installation for just under $2,000 in some cases. They pay most of the price tag, and in turn you pay them for electricity. The rates they charge are currently half of the going rate from a traditional utility company. They’re also guaranteed to stay fixed, so that you pay a stable rate that’s protected for electricity rate increases. On average, electricity prices have risen 5 percent each year for the past 20 years.

People interested in getting started should call a solar installation company first, to see if their home is in a good position. Some homes aren’t in the right situation for solar panels, and Schmid says they won’t install solar panels unless it will be worth it for the homeowner.



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