BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — Salem and Swampscott have been selected for the second round of Solarize Massachusetts, a state program that offers discounts to residents and businesses that install solar panels.
The two North Shore communities are partnering in a state group-buying program that has generated more than 1,250 solar electricity contracts since 2011, according to the state.
The program is run by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
Salem officials plan to hold a public meeting in late January to introduce the program. No date has been set.
This program was initiated in response to a growing interest in renewable energy, according to state officials.
“Programs like Solarize Massachusetts allow people across Massachusetts to join the clean energy revolution right at their own homes and businesses...” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan said in a statement.
Purchasing solar panels can cost $20,000 to $30,000, steep upfront costs that have scared off many consumers. It also can be daunting to choose an installer and the right solar array for a roof.
Solarize Massachusetts — or, in this case, Solarize Salem — can help residents and businesses over those hurdles, according to local officials.
“Regardless of your financial situation, there is probably a solar program that will benefit (you),” said Jeff Cohen, the volunteer “solar coach” for Solarize Salem.
There are a number of financial incentives to reduce costs, including something called “solar renewable energy credits,” which can generate cash payments.
Installers selected for the program must provide tiered pricing, or cost reductions that increase as more people sign up.
Those incentives can shorten the payback on solar panels from seven to 10 years to four to six years, according to Cohen.
While solar panels may not be for everyone — especially someone with little sun or financial problems — Solarize Massachusetts is worth investigating for most people and businesses, Cohen said.
“They are absolutely going to get the best deal,” he said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.
Solar Salem Current homes with solar power: 50 (estimated) Cost of solar panels: $20,000 to $30,000 Number of panels needed: 20 to 30 Financial incentives: federal and state tax credits, a state rebate, tiered pricing and solar renewable energy credits. Payback period: Four to 10 years Information: Write to firstname.lastname@example.org Source: Solarize Massachusetts and Solarize Salem