Pam Kelly of Greening Greenfield interviewed Sally Pick, the volunteer solar coach for Solarize Montague, a program Greening Greenfield is in the process of looking into for Greenfield.

Pam:  The Solar Association (SEIA) just reported an annual 15% increase in solar installations, equal to taking1.9 million carsoff the road.  Youwere the volunteer solar coach for Solarize Montague.  You put many hours of volunteer work into helping Montague residents and businesses contract over 40 solar systems in 2012.  Greening Greenfield is now looking for just the right solar coach.   What is the Solarize Program and what does being a solar coach entail? 

Sally:  The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC) coordinates a program to help residents and small businesses in towns lower the cost of the installation of solar electric systems which generate electricity directly from sunshine.  The cost of solar is so reasonable now that people can see a payback for an initial investment within roughly 4-7 years, by lowering or eliminating the cost of electricity and by tapping into incentives.   The townofMontague applied to the state for the Solarize Program, and part of the application involves having a volunteer team and a coach.

A solar coach coordinates the program, serving as a liaison between Mass. CEC, the town, an active volunteer committee, the solar installer chosen for the program, and potential clientele.  Solar coaches develop and implement a local education and outreach strategy, coordinate media coverage, and answer lots of questions. However, the installers themselves are the technical experts.  They do the site visits, making sure the building gets enough sunshine, and do the installations.

Pam:  What qualifications did you have, and how did it all work?

Sally:  AlthoughI was an environmental consultant before I took on the Solarize Montague program, it includes a few trainings on solar, a regular conference call with Mass CEC, collaboration with the solar installer, the town, local media and volunteers.   The program deepened my understanding of solar and the incentives that are offered now, and gave me a higher profile in the community for my consulting business.

Pam:  Is that what inspired you to get engaged in Solarize Montague?

Sally:  Well, that was very useful, but my deeper concern is actually to encourage members of the community to lower energy use and address climate change.  While adopting solar makes a great difference, smaller changes ---like using efficient light bulbs and buying an Energy Star refrigerator---done by many people-- can make just as big a difference, and energy efficiency is the least expensive way to a clean energy future.

As a consultant, I am now certified by the Building Performance Institute as a Building Analyst Professional.  This was the final step in an arduous process and I can now use the certification as a valuable and professionally recognized credential for my new energy consulting with homeowners. I help people who are exploring renewable energy sources like solar, and enable them to increase energy efficiency by helping them see their building as a whole system. 

If you change one part of a system you affect another.  For example, the first priority in a building might be to look at moisture and explore ways to keep it dry enough to avoid mold, before tightening up the building.   Many people may not know that an energy audit is free to homeowners and renters from Mass Save or Community Action's Fuel Assistance Program, and that they will evaluate if it’s healthy and safe to seal air leaks, and insulate.  It is subsidized by the public utility, so through those programs, weatherizing can be done for no or low cost. Other options are also available for deeper weatherization work that I can advise people about.

An energy audit is required in order to be accepted into the Solarize Program.

For all her hard work as Solarize Montague's volunteer coach and her contributions to the field of energy efficiency, Sally Pick is Greening Greenfield's October Green Hero. 

To contact Sally: www.facebook.com/SJP.LLC

 

 

 

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