On Aug. 12, the Town of Chapel Hill announced its partnership with Solarize the Triangle, a program to make solar energy more easily available and affordable.
Solarize Chapel Hill is one of the 11 communities within the Triangle area, including Carrboro, in the initiative. The initiative is led by Triangle J Council of Governments through the Triangle Sustainability Partnership and Solar Crowdsource – a group of local governments, advocates and nonprofits.
Solarize Chapel Hill's goal is to encourage residents to adopt clean energy by promoting education and optimizing the solar panel installation process.
John Richardson, Chapel Hill’s community sustainability manager, said that an increase in residents using solar energy will make clean energy more accessible for everyone.
“The goal is to not only lower the price of solar and make it more attractive, but also to make it more accessible and affordable to folks who are participating in this program,” Richardson said.
Orange County Sustainability Programs Manager Amy Eckberg said that Yes Solar Solutions, the Cary-based installation partner for the initiative, has a long history of solarizing programs and is well-versed in solar energy. She added that the program makes the installation process simple.
Eckberg also said she was even considering installing solar panels for her own home. She noted the program is "turn-key ready," meaning that after someone decides to install solar panels, most of the work is done for them.
“I mean, you don’t have to go out, you don’t have to hunt down a solar installer," she said. "This program does all the legwork for you."
As part of the service, Yes Solar Solutions completes free home evaluations to determine whether a residence is a good candidate for solar energy. Eckberg said that this limits the otherwise overwhelming choices a consumer has to make.
Because of this, a lot of the guesswork of trying to coordinate the installation of solar panels is removed from the equation, she said.
Eckberg added that initiative plays a role in Orange County’s goal to meet a 100 percent renewable energy-based economy by 2050. Orange County's first commitment to renewable energy was in 2005 through its "Environmental Responsibility Goal."
In June 2019, Orange County had more than 23 megawatts of solar energy across 407 systems, a 37 percent increase from three years prior.
Mike Piehler, UNC’s chief sustainability officer, said that the campaign also helps with goals set by North Carolina’s House Bill 951, which seeks to “take all reasonable steps” to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030, and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
Piehler noted that support at a state level from HB 951 helps promote solarization programs like Solarize the Triangle.
“I mean, it is a time where we really need to act, and it’s a time, fortunately, where really smart people are coming up with good ideas as to how we can try to move forward as quickly as possible with this energy transition,” Piehler said.
He added that solar energy is a good start to reaching this goal, as it is available, adaptable and able to be deployed in many different places.
Richardson said that in addition to its sustainability, solar energy is also a resilient source of energy because it is able to generate power within a residence even if the power from an electric grid goes out.
The enrollment deadline for a free assessment through the program is Dec. 31. For more information, residents can visit solarizechapelhill.org.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article included a broken link for Solarize Chapel Hill. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
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