Congrats to our Volunteer of the Year!

Plainfield Resident Named Vital Communities’ Volunteer of the Year

Nancy Mogielnicki was honored earlier this month as Vital Communities’ 2014 Volunteer of the Year.

“Nancy has been a phenomenal volunteer for Vital Communities not only this year but for many,” said Energy Program Manager Sarah Simonds. “As a key volunteer for the Solarize Cornish-Plainfield initiative last spring, Nancy helped more than 20 homeowners go solar in her community. She also represents Plainfield as an active member of our Upper Valley Transportation Management Association Steering Committee, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of many Vital Communities projects.”

Nancy received her award at the annual Vital Communities Open House. This is the organization’s third annual Volunteer of the Year Award, which last year honored Lyme, N.H., resident Carola Lea and in 2012 recognized Nancy and George Smith of Hartland, Vt.

“Vital Communities projects are appealing for several reasons, including the fact that they are regional in nature and that they address a wide range of ‘sustainability’ issues – the things that make communities vital,” said Nancy, who has lived in the Upper Valley since 1977 and also volunteers for the Plainfield Energy Committee. “There is something for everyone among Vital Communities’ offerings, and they make it really easy to be an effective volunteer.”


Solarize Launch Events Draw 600

Solar is contagious. No, really! There’s a new study to prove it! As you can read in this article from the Washington Post, it turns out that having neighbors with solar is a stronger influence on other homes going solar than almost any other factor, even income level.

And if solar is contagious, we’re well on our way to an epidemic here in the Upper Valley.

Our recent Solarize Upper Valley Round Two launch events drew nearly 600 attendees and generated 350 site visit requests in the first week. It’s going to be a busy season for the partner installers in our five Solarize communities!

Solarize Hanover 
Energy Emporium

Solarize Kearsarge (Andover, New London, Wilmot)
ReVision Energy

Solarize Orford 
Milhouse Enterprises

Solarize Pomfret-Woodstock 
Catamount Solar and Integrity Energy

Solarize Randolph-Brookfield-Braintree 
Catamount Solar and Integrity Energy

Visit our website to learn more, find Solarize events in your community, and sign up for a free site visit.

We’ll begin recruiting communities and installers in early 2015 to participate in Round Three – sign up for our monthly emails or contact Energy Program Manager Sarah Simonds if you think your community might be interested in getting involved.


Solarize Launches in 10 Towns

Vital Communities and volunteers in 10 towns will launch Solarize Upper Valley campaigns in October. Hanover, Orford, Andover, New London, and Wilmot, New Hampshire, and Pomfret, Woodstock, Randolph, Brookfield, and Braintree, Vermont, are participating in the second round of Solarize Upper Valley this fall and winter.

Attend a Launch Event

Interested residents and business owners are encouraged to attend the October launch events to learn more about the program, meet their community’s partner installer, and talk with neighbors interested in going solar.

Solarize Upper Valley Launch Events

Open houses and other events scheduled throughout the fall and winter will help residents learn more about the process, costs, and benefits of going solar. Learn more at here.

Solarize Upper Valley teams up community volunteers with competitively selected solar photovoltaic (PV) installers for 15 weeks of outreach around small-scale solar energy, offering competitive prices, accessible resources, and a simplified process for solar PV installations. The first round of Solarize Upper Valley (March through June 2014) resulted in 120 new solar homes, adding 638 kilowatts of renewable energy capacity to the region.

Solarize is Recruiting!

Solarize Upper Valley is recruiting! We’re looking for communities and installers to partner with us on Round Two of Solarize this fall. Join us next month to learn more:

Info Session for Communities
Thursday, June 12th, 5:30 – 7:00pm
Montshire Museum, Norwich, VT

Info Session for Installers
Tuesday, June 24th, 7:30 – 9:00am
Kilton Library, West Lebanon, NH

If you aren’t yet receiving our monthly email updates, sign up now: We’ll send out the Round Two requests for proposals (RFPs) from communities and installers in June.

Final Month of Solarize Upper Valley Round One
Our June 30th deadline is fast approaching, and our Round One communities – Thetford-Strafford, Cornish-Plainfield, and Lyme – are making great progress. So far, residents have:

  • Requested 337 site visits from partner installers Catamount Solar/Integrity Energy, Solar Source, and RGS Energy
  • Signed 43 contracts to go solar
  • Added 189kW of new solar PV capacity to the Upper Valley!

Several Solarize installations are already complete or under way. The home you see in the image above belongs to Jan and Keith Fifield of Strafford. “What an exciting time for us,” Keith told us when we reached out to see how the install was going. “We’ve just become our own power company!

If you’re an interested homeowner in a current Solarize community and have not yet signed up for a free site visit, now’s the time! It’s easy to do at Contracts must be signed by June 30 to take advantage of the special Solarize pricing – and remember, as more people sign on, the price goes down for everyone!

Solar Today and Tomorrow

Are you thinking about solar energy for your home, business, or community? Don’t miss this chance to attend “Solar Today and Tomorrow,” a presentation by expert Steven Strong about leading edge solar projects he has worked on, and current work on community Solar Gardens. The presentation takes place Friday, April 18, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Montshire Museum of Science Porter Community Room in Norwich.

Steven is a principal of Solar Design Associates in Harvard, Massachusetts, and has been designing and building solar installations since 1974. Projects have included The White House, university buildings for UMass, Oregon, Oberlin, and Saudi Arabia, the San Francisco Giants stadium and the Atlanta Olympics Natatorium, the UN, the Giant Solar Cube in California, many smaller buildings in the Boston area, as well as the Tin Mountain Conservation Center and the 21st Century Net Zero Farmstead in our region.

His last project was the solar for the Bullitt Center in Seattle, which is now being certified as the “Greenest Commercial Building in the World” as part of the Living Building Challenge. He is currently working on the community Solar Gardens in Harvard.

Steven is the “Solar Energy Expert” for the NOVA public television series. Bring your questions!

Sponsored by the Upper Valley Sierra Club, free and open to all, refreshments will be provided.

Solar Decision Tree

We thought we’d share a story and resource from our partners at VECAN (Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network) and Waterbury LEAP (Local Energy Action Partnership). ENJOY!

Solar Decision Tree to Help You Go Solar!

There has been tremendous solar growth in Vermont recently, with 100 percent of new electricity coming online from solar in 2013 − which explains why the state has taken the top spot for solar jobs per capita in the U.S. Much of this growth is a result of communities taking action across the state, helping to chart the course, streamline the process, and share their experiences.

Waterbury LEAP has been working hard on solar, having doubled their residential solar capacity last year while also spearheading solar projects in town and at the local schools. Through their experience, they’ve created a handy resource for others interested in going solar. Whether you want solar photovoltaics or solar hot water on your home or business, or are interested in hosting a solar array on your property, the Solar Decision Tree can help you quickly navigate the process of going solar. Thanks to Waterbury LEAP for their great work and sharing this excellent resource with all.

Click here to download this one-page Solar Decision Tree.

110 Attend Solarize Launch

The first launch event for Solarize Upper Valley was a huge success, with more than 100 interested community members attending the Solarize Thetford-Strafford launch on March 9. More than 30 residents signed up for free site visits from the communities’ partner installer team, Catamount Solar and Integrity Energy. Thetford and Strafford are clearly ready to go solar this spring!

Ready for your turn? If you live in Cornish, Plainfield, or Lyme, we hope you’ll attend the upcoming Solarize launch in your community!

Solarize Cornish-Plainfield Launch: Tuesday, March 18, 7-8pm, Plainfield Town Hall

Solarize Lyme Launch: Wednesday, March 19, 7-8pm, Lyme School cafeteria

If you don’t live in one of these communities, don’t despair: We’ll be recruiting communities this spring for the fall round of Solarize. Learn how to get your community involved, and sign up for our email updates to stay in the loop!

Solarize in the Valley News

We’re excited to see Solarize Upper Valley in the Valley News as we prepare to launch publicly this month. Thanks to reporter Nora Doyle-Burr – and congratulations on your first assignment in your new role!

Read the Valley News story here, and learn more about Solarize Upper Valley.

Vital Communities Launches Solarize Upper Valley

Vital Communities this month is publicly launching Solarize Upper Valley, a new two-year initiative to make residential solar energy more accessible to homeowners in the Upper Valley. Volunteers, town leaders, and homeowners from five towns on both sides of the Connecticut River – Cornish, Plainfield, Lyme, Thetford, and Strafford – are participating in the initial phase of Solarize Upper Valley this spring.

“We’re excited about the potential of Solarize Upper Valley to increase adoption of renewable energy in the region by simplifying the process of ‘going solar,’” said Sarah Simonds, Energy Program manager for Vital Communities. “This program will take us further toward our goal of meeting 90 percent of the Upper Valley’s energy needs through energy efficiency and renewable energy sources by 2050.”

With support from the John Merck Fund, Vital Communities is partnering with SmartPower and the Sustainable Energy Resource Group to refine a program that has already proven successful in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The partners would like to see Solarize Upper Valley serve as a pilot for adapting the Solarize model for communities in Northern New England.

Solarize Upper Valley is a program through which communities team up with competitively selected solar photovoltaic (PV) installers for fifteen weeks of outreach and education around residential solar energy with support from Vital Communities and dedicated local volunteers. Solarize delivers competitive prices, accessible resources, and a simplified process for residential solar PV installations by partnering installers and communities to energize and streamline the public outreach and education process.

The five towns involved in Solarize Upper Valley this spring have formed into three “communities” to take advantage of economies of scale. Those communities will host public launch events in the next several weeks. Interested residents are strongly encouraged to attend, learn more about the program, and meet their community’s installer. Solarize launch events this month:

Solarize Thetford-Strafford March 9, 6:30 PM Thetford Hill Congregational Church
Solarize Cornish-Plainfield March 18, 7:00 PM Plainfield Town Hall
Solarize Lyme March 19, 7:00 PM Lyme School Cafeteria

These launch events will be followed by open houses and workshops with installers to help local residents understand the costs and benefits of residential solar power. As more residents sign up to go solar, the price goes down for everyone. The deadline for residential sign-ups is June 30, 2014.

A similar campaign, Solarize Norwich, is running concurrently but is independent of Solarize Upper Valley.

Vital Communities plans to implement three additional rounds of Solarize Upper Valley in the next two years, with about four communities participating in each round. For more information, visit

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