SolarOP Technical Assistance Case Study – Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute and Solarize Asheville

In 2013, the Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs) provided technical assistance (TA) to the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute (BRSI) to help them develop their own Solarize program.  Endorsed by the City of Asheville, NC, the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute’s goal of the Solarize program was for city-wide group purchasing of solar photovoltaics (PV) to reduce the cost to homeowners and to streamline the process through financing, education, and outreach.

In addition to providing BRSI with best practices, the SolarOPs team set up weekly check-in calls with BRSI to answer any questions and to provide advice and expertise on Solarize Asheville. SolarOPs provided a technical review of the Request for Proposals (RFP) for this program, sending sample RFPs from previous Solarize programs. SolarOPs served as a technical advisor to their review team as they were selecting the winner for Solarize Asheville, and finally, SolarOPs also presented during the kickoff event for Solarize Asheville.

According to Katie Bray of the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute, the TA that was provided through the SolarOPs program helped facilitate the start-up of the Solarize Asheville program and enabled it to be a smooth and effective program.  The TA addressed some of the learning barriers that existed around implementing RFPs.  The TA team looked over the RFP in detail and gave some concrete suggestions on how to make it more specific.  The TA team also helped to review the top proposals.  The Asheville community was very thankful for the second opinion and the expertise that the TA offered, as well as the sharing of best practices, which Asheville was able to directly apply to its own community.  The TA provided a sense of confidence around solar that was lacking, and the community was able to use the recommendations that the TA offered.    While solar is still very much a niche in Asheville, the TA that SolarOPs provided helped to create a Solarize program that has created tangible outcomes in the community.

Solarize Asheville had 372 homeowners sign up and contracted 52 PV systems.  One exemplary case of an installed PV system resulting from Asheville’s Solarize program is the case of Kelly and Joshua Martin.  The Martins had a great experience with the Asheville Solarize program.  They had previously thought about going solar but it wasn’t a huge priority due to the many steps and hurdles in the existing process.  The Solarize program streamlined the whole process and made it much easier for them to consider solar energy options.

The Martins particularly liked the community aggregate impact, seeing the financing options, and that the Solarize program went out and got the installation bids, so that the Martins didn’t have to worry about doing this process themselves.

As a result of participating in Solarize Asheville, the Martins installed a 4 kilowatt system on their rooftop.  It was installed during the summer of 2014 and it took a couple of days to install.  They will get a state and federal tax credit for their installation.  The Martins estimate that if electricity prices remain the same, it will take about 8 years to pay off the system, which they feel is a short time.  The Martins feel strongly that the installation will increase the value of their home and that they will recoup investment when they sell the home.

Martins2  Martins

Photo Credit: Joshua Martin

The Martins felt that the Solarize program helped to remove the market barriers to rooftop solar, and for a state that doesn’t have 3rd party financing for solar, it is good to have bulk purchasing.  The program helped the Martins more tangibly understand electricity policy, particularly the impacts of legislature and regulatory actions on the home owner, and helped the Martins to make informed decisions.


For more information on the Martin’s solar installation, please visit their website.

For more information on SolarOPs technical assistance, please visit here: Link