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    With summer gone and fall quickly passing, most local gardeners are taking in their last crop of the season. However, a new type of garden is gathering hype this season: A solar garden.

    A local group is looking to start up a solar garden in Harvard, Massachusetts. Chelmsford residents will be able to buy “shares” in the garden’s “crop” that could potentially reduce their electricity bills.

    According toGrid Bid, a solar power system can help reduce a monthly utility bill by an average of 50% or more. The savings may vary depending on the following:

    • The amount of sunshine the panel absorbs during the day
    • The amount of electricity being supplied by the solar power system
    • The cost of electricity in the region

    Claude Colp of Solar Design Associates is looking for customers in Chelmsford and other National Grid towns along 495 for his new project: the Harvard Solar Garden.

    Located nearby in Harvard, the project is especially geared toward those who were unable to participate in solar initiatives such as the recentSolarize Massachusettsproject, but is open to all National Grid customers in "Load Zone 3", which extends from North Andover in the east to the New York border.

    Much like a community supported agriculture program, the Harvard Solar Garden works as sort of a community supported power plant. Customers buy "shares" of electricity, with that money used to purchase and maintain equipment, with the customers later getting the power back directly through specialized rates in their electricity bill.

    Currently Colp believes that customers will be able to get energy at as low as 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour, or about half a penny below average 2013 residential rates according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    "We're guaranteeing the best possible production in the geographic area," said Colp. "It is really the only one of its kind in the state right now."

    Benefits of the Harvard Solar Garden (HSG)

    • HSG offers the traditional benefits of solar panel ownership, generating free electricity from the sun with minimal carbon impact. Owning solar generation capacity limits dependence on non-renewable fuel sources and shields the owner from the impact of rising electric rates.
    • HSG participants benefit from Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) for 10 years. SRECs are generated as a function of solar energy produced by solar installations. They are sold to utilities who buy them as a way to meet a state requirement to provide a growing percentage of electricity from renewable sources.
    • Participants in the HSG benefit from lower solar system pricing than the market rate for residential solar installations. Many of the costs associated with installing and maintaining the solar array are distributed among all of the solar garden participants, reducing the price for everyone.
    • HSG qualifies for federal grants through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which reduce initial investment costs by 30%.
    • There is no impact to the shareholders' property no roof construction, site work, or electrical service modifications are required. HSG operations and maintenance (O&M) is funded by SREC income from each share and includes site rental, panel and inverter maintenance and repair, asset and liability insurance, vegetation control, and a reserve fund for system decommissioning at end of life.

    To read more about the Harvard Solar Garden, visit their website at: