VERONA, NJ – Sustainable Jersey recently issued a statewide Solar Challenge to New Jersey municipalities and Verona has answered the call. Verona is one of seven municipalities selected for the Sustainable Jersey Solar Challenge program. The Solar Challenge towns also include Galloway Township, Highland Park, Hoboken, Hopewell, Maplewood and Woodbridge.
As a challenge participant, Verona will receive a $3,000 grant and technical support to set up a local Solar Challenge which is a custom online solar marketplace for local businesses and homeowners. The participating municipalities will compete for the title of Solar Challenge Champion and a range of awards including a $10,000 first prize.
“Finding a contractor to install a still evolving solar technology, with a confusing array of incentives and financing options, has emerged as a significant barrier to the growth of solar energy,” Randall Solomon, co-director of Sustainable Jersey said, “Sustainable Jersey launched this program to overcome obstacles and provide a simple, cost effective way for municipalities to engage homeowners and small businesses in adopting solar.”
“We’re proud that Verona has been chosen for this program. It’s a great next step for renewable energy in Verona, and it comes at a perfect time. We’re unveiling our Solar Monitoring Project which tracks the performance of our Community Center rooftop solar array,” said Verona Mayor Kevin Ryan. “In addition to the hundreds of visitors a day who pass through the lobby, residents and students can also access the system from a home or school computer to see how the system is performing in real time. Our goal is to foster public awareness of the benefits of solar energy. Verona’s Sustainable Jersey Solar Challenge website at http://www.veronasolar.org gives our home and business owners an easy and thorough way to take that curiosity further and find out how solar energy might specifically help themselves and their businesses."
The eight-month, community-led program leverages an online solar marketplace and a suite of locally branded social media marketing tools to help spread the word in the community about solar and the program. The Sustainable Jersey Solar Challenge takes advantage of a new online solar marketplace developed by the firm EnergySage with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy. The EnergySage web-based interface offers consumers online comparison-shopping, providing an experience similar to buying an auto online. Because the online solar marketplace is open to all solar vendors who meet the EnergySage vetting criteria, consumers have access to multiple high quality contractors.
Verona will receive support from Sustainable Jersey and EnergySage in developing and promoting the outreach campaign and will be featured on the Sustainable Jersey Solar Challenge website, which will track the progress of each community in achieving signed contracts for solar installation by local homeowners and businesses. The program will run from October 2016 through May 2017.
The Solar Challenge pilot programs and the grants to be distributed to the seven municipalities are funded by the Gardinier Environmental Fund. Gardinier Environmental Fund President Gene Wentzel said, “The Gardinier Environmental Fund is committed to conserving the earth’s energy resources and enhancing renewable energy measures. We are proud to stand alongside Sustainable Jersey, and to continue to fund worthy projects that support our mutual goals in New Jersey.” To date, Gardinier Environmental Fund has provided $585,000 to New Jersey municipalities and schools through the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants program.
The Township of Verona joined the Sustainable Jersey program in 2013 and achieved bronze level certification in 2014. Since then the town has launched many new programs including an annual Green Fair, a video community map, a new phone app which helps residents remember garbage and recycling collection days resulting in a cleaner waste stream, a successful rain barrel program, and a Green Business Recognition program to acknowledge the sustainability achievements of local businesses.