Club Green Wants Your Roof

Most Westporters are so busy they have little time for basic daily functions like cooking, cleaning and breathing.

So they certainly don’t have time to figure out if their home has good solar potential.

Even if Solarize Westport — a fantastic program that promotes solar installation at below-market rates — is closing in on its December 14 deadline.

So a dozen Staples students are doing it for you.

High school teenagers don’t have a lot of free time either. But these are members of Club Green — a very active environmental group — and helping the planet (and their town) is at least as important to them as homework, SAT prep and playing FIFA.

So last week they examined aerial photos from Google Earth. They found 53 local homes with southern-facing, well-oriented roofs. Then they hand-addressed envelopes to the owners, mailing a letter and flyer describing Solarize Westport.

Club Green — including Robby Gershowitz and Zack Pensak, Stapleites who also serve on Westport’s Green Task Force — says there are 250 or so homes in Westport with “ideal” south-facing roof orientation. Many others are “good” — not due-south, but close enough.

Club Green members (from left) Robby Gershowitz, Thomas Ward and Sarah Fox work diligently to find south-facing roofs.

Club members will continue their identification and mailing work this Tuesday (November 20, 5 to 7 p.m., Town Hall Room 309).

Anyone interested –  any age — can join them. Just bring a pen, smartphone, iPad or laptop.

The pizza is free.

Solar power is not, of course. But it’s a great investment — particularly if you heed Club Green, and sign up with Solarize Westport.

6 responses to “Club Green Wants Your Roof

  1. It’s a nice idea to go green, but the cost, after rebates and credits, will still require a 5 figure investment with an estimated 8+ year payback just to break even. That’s a long time to commit to staying in one’s house just to get your money back.

  2. Dan, thanks for the great post!

    In regard to the prior reader’s concern about upfront costs and “payback period,” there are several points to clarify: 

    1. The upfront costs for a purchased system are roughly 40% (or more) lower than outside of the Solarize program.

    2. Typical paybacks will be in the 6-7 year range (though they can be as low as 5 years or higher to depending on system size and performance due to site conditions). 

    3. For a typical system your annual averted energy costs are like an investment with a return of 14 to 16% annually.

    4. A study from the Lawrence Berkeley Lab (US DOE — http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/emp/reports/lbnl-4476e.pdf) has shown that over the last decade in CA, comparing similar existing homes with and without solar show an increased value in the solar home of greater the $5/Watt. For the average size system mentioned above (net price of roughly $10,000), this would be an increase of $35,000 in the home’s value, and by CT statute you cannot be assessed property taxes on the value of your alternative energy system.

    5. If you do plan to stay long term
    in your home, the savings and return will likely only increase over time as energy prices tend to rise (like all commodities there are ups and downs, but the historic trend is higher) and your home’s solar panels continue produce a substantial portion of the energy you consume through an investment which has already fully paid for itself.

    6. For residents who are not able to or do not want to commit to a cash purchase of a solar system, there is a no upfront cost option available in the Solarize program. Known as a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), you pay nothing upfront and a third party owns and maintains (at their expense) the system on your home. You pay only for the amount of power your system actually produces – and those payments are guaranteed to be at a discount to the market rate you are paying the utility.

    As an aside – please note that the economics of any solar project are individual in nature and the numbers above assume regional averages and reaching Tier 4 Solarize Westport prices.

    Solarize Westport ambassadors will be happy to discuss your project with you should you so desire. 

    David Mann
    Chair, Green Task Force
    Town of Westport, CT

  3. looked at the numbers

    Interesting info. Having met with Encon, I was given an out of pocket cost of just under $15,000 with a maximal (assuming ideal weather conditions) monthly savings of about $150. Other companies approved for solar gave proposals that was a bit more expensive but had more powerful systems that saved more each month, so it was a wash. Then solar panels loose their efficiency over time. In the end, I was still looking at a 8-11 year period to recoup my investment. I wasn’t given the non-purchase option to consider. I’ll look into that. So IMHO, the decision to go solar is not as much financial, but emotional/environmental.

  4. The comments posted by David Mann represent a very accurate financial model for residential solar photovoltaic. It is an excellent financial investment with significant environmental benefits (to us all). Yes, out of pocket expense is, of course, to be considered, but it is no different than any other well-considered investment. Except the risk is much lower with solar.

    I do want to point out that every homeowner interested in solar should get quotes from solar installers in addition to those participating in the Solarize Westport/Fairfield programs. The Solarize Westport/Fairfield programs have done a great job raising awareness, but they do not have a monopoly on the lowest pricing. Many local installers are already quoting solar project pricing that meets the tier 3 or tier 4 price levels that the Solarize Westport/Fairfield program is hoping to reach.

    The solar PV market in Connecticut is highly competitive and getting at least two quotes is just smart business for homeowners. Getting a quote is a free service for most installers.

  5. My dad talked about how he wanted to try the idea of solar roofing Ottawa. He read books on it and said it would save on so much and its a really good idea. So he tried it on our grandmas house and she loved it he loved it. He does it on all the houses he builds now.