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Solarize Bloomington Panel Installations Surpass Earlier Estimates

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Organizers of a Bloomington solar initiative say most customers were able to get solar panels installed in time to reap the maximum benefits before a new law goes into effect that reimburses solar panel owners less money for excess energy.

The Solar Indiana Renewable Energy Network, or SIREN, is running the initiative with the city of Bloomington. SIREN announced in September it was already over capacity. At the time, the group was working with only one installer and would not be able to meet all of the demand for solar panels.

A law passed earlier this year decreases the amount utility companies are required to pay for excess energy being produced by sources like rooftop solar panels. Bloomington Economic and Sustainable Development Coordinator, Alex Crowley, says the law's end-of-the-year deadline for benefits drove the interest for installations.

"That triggered a level of focus and excitement that caught us by surprise, so the original installer could only handle a certain amount of jobs," he says.

Because of this, the Solarize Bloomington group partnered with three additional installers and received help from several other local contractors.

Volunteers don't have an exact number, but they say with the extra help, they've been able to surpass the number of installations they originally thought would be possible in 2017.

But Solarize Bloomington wasn't able to work with everyone. Jean Creek and his daughter had originally signed up for the program. When the initiative notified them in October that they wouldn't be able to install panels on their homes by the end of 2017, they went to a local contractor.

Creek says his concern about the environment brought him to the decision to get solar panels.

"Global warming is a real thing. You just have to look at California right now, know the intensity of the hurricanes that we've had this year, but it's a real problem," he says.

Crowley says beyond residential properties, the initiative plans to recruit small and mid-size business to go solar in the future.

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