By Bill Kirk
---- — Nearly 100 residents filled the auditorium at the Public Safety Center last week to learn more about how solar power can energize their homes while helping them save money on their electric bills.
Dubbed “Solar 101,” the Jan. 30 event was held to introduce Andover residents to the state-sponsored Solarize program, which uses discounted installation charges to attract more customers.
“I was extremely pleased with the turnout,” said Anil Navkal, who has been officially appointed as the town’s solar coach.
Navkal said people started showing up 30 minutes before the 7 p.m. start time of last week’s forum. “By 7 o’clock, all the seats were gone,” he said of the standing-room-only attendance.
Elizabeth Youngblood, project manager for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Commission, which runs the Solarize programs throughout the state, gave a 40-minute presentation, which was followed by another 40 minutes of questions.
Under the program, people in a designated Solarize community can sign up with a vendor and get a discount on their solar installation. In Andover, this initiative is being spearheaded by members of the Andover Green Advisory Board in collaboration with town staff.
Navkal said 60 people signed up to get more information about the program following the forum.
Last week, a committee made up of Solarize volunteers chose Astrum Solar of Annapolis, Md., as the official vendor for Andover.
Astrum was founded in 2007 by Vadim Polikov and is focused on residential installation work in 12 states. It is the largest residential solar panel provider in Massachusetts, according to the company’s website.
Navkal said the committee chose Astrum because it is offering such a great deal for homeowners, saying it can keep the cost of installation at $7,000 to $8,000 below most competitors.
Representatives of Astrum Solar will be on hand for a Meet the Installer Night on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall Library, 2 North Main St.
Navkal said those interested in installing solar panels on their roof are not obligated to use Astrum. He encourages people to get several quotes.
However, anyone who does use Astrum will likely get a deep discount, in addition to the many state and federal incentives available for customers who buy their solar panels.
He added that people who lease solar panels should be sure to look into the long-term and short-term costs to make sure it’s the best deal for them. Many of the incentives for purchasing solar panels are not available with lease projects, he said.