State unveils solar bulk-buying program

state support for solarSolar usage in New York tripled between 2011 and 2014, but Long Island could me maxed out.

Three community-based solar-power campaigns in Suffolk County are eligible for bulk-purchase discounts through Community Solar NY, a new state initiative announced Monday.

Solarize Brookhaven and two campaigns under the Solarize South Fork banner – encompassing participants in the Town of Southampton, the Village of Southampton, the Village of Sag Harbor, the Town of East Hampton and the Village of Sag Harbor – are among the 26 community campaigns across the state included in the announcement.

As part of New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, residential and commercial community members can obtain discounted solar installations through larger group purchases, as opposed to obtaining them as individual customers – creating discounts of up to 20 percent, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Reforming the Energy Vision is also helping to remove common obstacles to solar installations by providing qualified contractor lists and eliminating feasibiity-study requirements.

“One of the best ways for local communities to install solar infrastructure is to come together and take advantage of even more cost-effective rates,” Cuomo said in the statement. “I encourage anyone considering solar for their home or business to learn more about our resources and join the campaign today.”

In addition to providing discounts and making solar installations less cumbersome by removing red tape, the community-based campaigns are banking on a theory proffered by a recent Yale University/University of Connecticut study, “Spatial Patterns of Solar Photovoltaic System Adoption: The Influence of Neighbors and the Built Environment.” In a nutshell, according to the study, if your neighbor installs solar panels, you’re more likely to do the same.

To capitalize on that theory, Community Solar NY will provide marketing materials, streamlined customer-acquisition processes for contractors, technical assistance and a list of best-practice protocols for community members, the release noted.

“Core partners” of the Community Solar NY effort on Long Island include Renewable Energy Long Island, The Nature Conservancy, the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County College, the Southampton and Hampton Bays school districts and the East Hampton Business Alliance, among others. One Nassau County business, Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering, is also listed as a Core Partner.

“Communities are at the core of Reforming the Energy Vision,” Richard Kauffman, chairman of energy and finance for New York, said. “It’s validating to see so many neighborhoods enthusiastically choose to inspire the next generation of New Yorkers by investing in clean and reliable solar power.”