In 2013, Katie Bray, program director of Clean Energy For Us, began a local campaign called Solarize Asheville to make solar energy easy, accessible and affordable.
After seeing a similar initiative pop up on the West Coast, the plan was to jump-start the local market for solar energy by offering neighborhoods the opportunity to group-purchase solar panels and bring down the individual’s cost. The program, Bray says, was a success, with 370 homeowners participating in its first year.
“At the same time,” she continues, “there was a lot of interest from other cities in North Carolina to run solarize campaigns — Solarize Asheville was the first solarize campaign in the South.”
Bray helped other campaigns get started in Charlotte, Durham and Carrboro, and the idea spread to other areas of the state. With the expanded territory and new campaigns, the organization, under the new name Clean Energy For Us, offers discounted solar pricing, free energy-efficiency audits, vetted contractors, and equipment and education on everything to do with clean energy. Basically, “we save you time, money and work,” Bray says.
The campaign is timely, too — Bray says there is a certain sense of urgency for registering to go solar this year. “In North Carolina, there’s a tax credit to get back 35 percent of what you pay for solar, but that expires at the end of this year,” she explains. The credit was originally in place when the cost of solar was exponentially more expensive, but with recent drastic reductions in solar energy’s cost, states are putting less and less money into helping fund those costs.”
To sign up for Clean Energy, homeowners should provide information on utility usage and the square footage of the home, as well as an address so that satellite imagery can make sure the home has a good “solar window,” Bray says. Other than that, just “fill out that form, and we’ll take it from there,” she concludes.