Newton Solar Challenge

The Newton Solar Challenge:  Just what you need to beat high utility bills and stare down global warming

Please welcome my guest author, John Tourtelotte, Founder, BarnRaise Energy and Newton Solar Challenge.

Newton Solar Challenge

Informational workshops so you can get answers from experts

What is it going to take to cut your energy bills?  And make a real difference in your own personal carbon footprint?

We live in an age of constant demands for attention.  Like many of our neighbors and friends in Newton, today’s working parent households strive to achieve meaningful professional goals while being attentive and supportive parents and active community participants.  Surely this is hard work but in the midst of these demands, many in our community feel an underlying threat from “climate change” and the desire for a “sustainable future.”  The weight is heavy and oppressive in similar ways to “macro threats” that earlier generations of parents felt when addressing nuclear weapons, civil rights, women’s rights, communism and two World Wars.

We see daily on the front page of the Boston Globe, vivid images of icebergs breaking, walruses stranded in Alaska, heat waves and droughts.  We see NSTAR’s 29% rate increase last week and wonder if older energy models are broken.  We worry about our children’s future.  We watch “An Inconvenient Truth” or James Cameron’s recent “Years of Living Dangerously” and ask how we can make a difference.

Some say that we need a “space race” as in the 1950’s – 1960’s; others say that we need a massive, united global response like the response to Nazi Germany in WWII.  Surely necessary but like in earlier generational threats, people want to do something close to home. To make a difference in Newton, in our community.

 Today’s rooftop solar installations blend right in!

Today’s rooftop solar installations blend right in!

An opportunity to address climate change in your own home

It can be done, with a change of heart and mind supported by concrete action, one step at a time at the local level, in your own home.  We need to take action to embrace clean energy, energy efficiency and lower carbon lifestyles in every home.  This sounds hard and amorphous, but taking concrete steps with what is available today can make it easier.   

This is the mission behind the Newton Solar Challenge:  to make the community and household process of adopting solar energy as easy and streamlined as possible.  A “challenge” is often another word for opportunity and the Newton Solar Challenge is just that.  An opportunity to make solar a community movement for you and your neighbors in every Village in Newton. An opportunity to stare down the “climate change” threat.

Newton Solar Challenge supports Mayor Setti Warren's energy efficiency goals to reduce consumption 20% by 2020 ​

Newton Solar Challenge supports Mayor Setti Warren’s energy efficiency goals to reduce consumption 20% by 2020

Involving the community in the Newton Solar Challenge

The City of Newton is fortunate to have many resources working to beat this threat of our generation.  We have talented environmental volunteers and community groups.  We have energy scientists.  We have finance experts.  We have students who are environmental leaders today at Newton South, Newton North and all of the city’s grammar and middle schools.  We also have the benefit of Mayor Setti Warren’s leadership – who has led by example with City buildings and now calls for a 20% reduction in energy use within five years.

Over the past weeks and months, a dedicated group of non-profit, governmental and for-profit individuals, companies, community groups and local banks have come together to streamline the residential solar adoption process, from negotiating favorable terms for Newton residents on American-made solar equipment to selecting high quality regional solar installers and providing access to cost-effective loan financing for residential solar ownership.  The “numbers need to work” for solar to be adopted.  The good news is that the “value proposition”, savings versus increasing utility rates (again, the 29% increase announced by NSTAR last week) and the time to payback on investment are now very compelling.  Loan options are emerging from local banks.  Support is growing throughout the community as people learn that, if their house is optimally suited for solar, they can replace up to 100% of their household’s electricity use with power generated on their own roof, while saving money.

Grass-roots support for the Newton Solar Challenge

The Newton Solar Challenge, supported by environmental non-profit Green Decade Newton, the City of Newton Sustainability Office, and Newton-based BarnRaise Energy is now up and running.  In a very short period since the Harvest Fair in mid-October, our team has seen first-hand a range of grassroots support from across Newton — from community libraries, to faith-based groups, to local non-profits, to for-profit companies and local banks which are willing to direct capital to solving this problem.  This is what we need:  the compounding strength of the community, households, non-profit and for-profit organizations as well as local government coming together to achieve a shared goal:  reducing carbon pollution while improving the bottom line of Newton households.

Workshops to learn more from experts and solar “adopters:

We invite you to learn more and to take a step towards concrete action with your neighbors by attending our upcoming “Solar Workshops” at the Auburndale Community Library on your choice of dates:  Sunday Nov. 16 at 4:00 PM or Wednesday, November 19 at 7:00 PM.  Come and learn more about how solar works, how it will look on your roof, how the savings and numbers work, and how local loan options and tax credits will benefit your bottom line.

For more on the Nov. 16 and Nov 19 “Solar Workshops” at the Auburndale Community Library please visit here.

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p.s. Here’s a great video on solar power.

Thanks to their ambitious teacher, help from parents, and a Kickstarter campaign that was funded seven times over, the students were able to make their Durham, North Carolina classroom completely solar powered.

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