Sunday, August 18, 2013

Local solar is not a virtue in dark New England

Driving through Northampton, Massachusetts today I saw a banner that read "Keep Solar Local."

Solar pride is a common groan-inducing sight in the bay state. Massachusetts is filthy with solar panels, and not because this is a good place to make energy from the sun. In fact, it's a lousy place with long, dark winters. Bright deserts make great locations for solar arrays, but that assumes your goal is to produce energy. If you goal is to make a profit from government subsidies and you don't care how much energy you produce then Massachusetts is a great place to install them.

However, it turns out the "Keep Solar Local" campaign is really a campaign to do business with a single solar installer simply because it is "local." That company, Northeast Solar, is actually from Hatfield, a neighboring and therefore competing municipality, but they don't seem to care because it's more local than anyone else.

On its website Northeast Solar claims "We can provide competitive pricing today" but a recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette shows the company started this campaign when they couldn't compete in a fair bidding process:

Gregory Garrison, president of Northeast Solar in Hatfield, argues this is a short-sighted decision that does not help the state’s Clean Energy Center meet its self-described mandate to create high-quality jobs and economic growth through its renewable energy programs. 
He said these goals cannot be accomplished by selecting the lowest bidder within a Solarize community, whose intent is only to drive down costs and install as much solar as possible.

The emphasis was added by me, of course.

When a company can't compete with superior service or lower prices they resort to phony localist economic claims as a hail Mary play.

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