Event to Solarize the Kenai kicks off

The project that gathers a group of solar power customers to ensure discounts on installment.

A group of local organizers are banding together this week to make installing solar panels on local homes and businesses affordable.

On Thursday, the Solarize the Kenai project kicks off by inviting residents who are interested in installing solar power on their property to speak with people who have already gone solar, and to learn more about Solarize — a project that gathers a group of solar power customers to ensure discounts on installment.

The Solarize the Kenai project, which is a citizen-led project working with Kenai Change, is based on other collective solar-buying projects that started a decade ago in Portland, Oregon. The model of the project is to pool the collective buying power of business and homeowners. Solar installers then bid for the job serving the large group of customers. For the installer, filling out their schedule with a known group of customers lowers their logistics and marketing costs, letting them offer services for less, Ben Boettger, an organizer for the Solarize the Kenai event, said via email.

“Because the installers are competing against one another for the pool of customers, they’re incentivized to offer even more of a discount,” Boettger said.

The idea to Solarize the Kenai came out of discussions from the Drawdown: Book to Action Climate Series, a community group focused on finding local projects to combat climate change. The series wrapped up this fall and the group voted to move forward with a community composting project, but Solarize the Kenai was a project the group still felt passionate about pursuing, Boettger said.

Hosting the Solarize the Kenai event this year was also strategic. Boettger said the group wanted to take advantage of the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, which is sunsetting for homeowners. Last year, the credit was worth 30% of installation costs. This year, it’s 26%. Next year it will be 21% and in 2022 it will be 10% and only available to businesses.

“We didn’t want to pass up the opportunity for a greater discount,” Boettger said.

The Solarize project model has been used in cities and neighborhoods across the Lower 48 and Alaska. Solarize Anchorage began in 2018, with a campaign that installed solar in 33 homes in the Airport Heights neighborhood, according to the project’s website. In 2019, a second Solarize Anchorage project installed solar in 163 homes in four neighborhoods. A third Solarize Anchorage campaign is in the works now, along with a Solarize Fairbanks project.

The kickoff on Thursday is the beginning of many events, with the goal of recruiting a pool of committed residents by March, when the group will hear bids from solar installers. The installer will be chosen by April and they will work on putting up solar for participants until the fall.

Residents who can’t make Thursday’s event, but want to know more can visit Email direct questions to

The Solarize the Kenai Kickoff event is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Soldotna Public Library.

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