This past Monday, we celebrated the installation of a Solar Access system with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and UMassFive Credit Union at Paulina Alenkina’s home in Amherst, MA. Solar Access is a pilot program that provides access to renewable energy and affordable heating and cooling technology to middle income homeowners in Massachusetts. This program combines solar electric and air source heat pump incentives with a state-sponsored loan to finance both technologies.

From left to right, Gabrielle Stebbins and Richard Faesy from Energy Futures Group; Steve Girard, Owner, Girard Heating & Cooling; Stephen Pike, CEO, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center; Aaron Simms, Co-Owner of SunBug Solar; Richard Kump, President & CEO of UMassFive Credit Union; Paulina Alenkina; John Majercak, President, Center for EcoTechnology.

Paulina’s home is one of the 100 proposed projects under the Solar Access pilot program. Many other programs throughout the state focused on expanding renewable energy tend to leave out middle income homeowners; and there are many programs that only pay for a portion of solar or air source heat pump technologies. Solar Access provides affordable, renewable energy to those who may not be able to purchase it, and participants will spend less than they do now.

“Participating was a no-brainer,” homeowner Paulina Alenkina said. “My family and I are saving on my energy bills and getting clean energy all at the same time.” Paulina, a CET employee, is one of five homeowners expected to see systems come online this month. 

John Majercak, President of the Center for EcoTechnology, talks with Stephen Pike, CEO of the Mass Clean Energy Center, and Paulina Alenkina, homeowner.

“We wanted to help customers who feel that they cannot afford heat pumps and clean energy…This provides a second chance for them to access the clean energy revolution,” John Majercak, President of CET, said at the ribbon cutting.

Among those who spoke were our President, John Majercak; Stephen Pike, CEO of MassCEC; and Richard Kump, President & CEO of UMassFive Credit Union. Other community partners, including the Energy Futures Group, also attended the event to celebrate. The Energy Futures Group, which came up with the original idea for Solar Access, coordinated the overall effort, including assembling the team and applying for the grant.

John Majercak, President of CET, speaking at the ribbon cutting.

“[This program] takes a limited set of resources and spreads it across a broader population,” Stephen Pike, CEO of MassCEC said at the ribbon cutting. “Over the long haul, [we want to] help homeowners find the long term cost savings that this technology can provide.”

CET has partnered with SunBug Solar and Girard Heating and Air Conditioning to streamline the process for homeowners. CET also ensures that all available incentives are utilized in the program, including heat pump rebates, the Mass Solar Loan, Solar SMART incentives, and solar tax credits. Participants also enroll in a UMassFive Credit Union loan. Additionally, the first six payments of the loan are paid by Solar Access.

Steve Girard, owner of Girard Heating and Cooling, with Paulina Alenkina, the homeowner.

“We are using the energy dollars saved over ten years by the more efficient, renewable system to actually pay for the system itself, and the financing is built into the model,” said Richard Kump, President & CEO of UMassFive Credit Union. “It’s a win for the homeowner, a win for the community because those energy dollars can now stay local, and a win for the environment.”

Richard Kump, President & CEO of UMassFive Credit Union with Paulina Alenkina and Stephen Pike, CEO of Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, flip the switch on her new solar panel system. Photo from Town of Amherst.

After a few words by the different partner organizations, Paulina went around the house and ceremoniously flipped the switch, taking her system online. Over the next 10 years, Paulina is expected to save $18,460 compared to not participating in the program. The expected energy savings include 5,361 kWh/year of electricity and 370 gallons of oil per year. This represents a savings of 3,983 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year for electricity and 8,321 pounds of CO2 per year for oil, for a total of 12,304 pounds or 5.58 metric tons of CO2 per year.

Paulina Alenkina in front of her home, with her new solar panels.

If you are interested, you can visit and answer a few quick questions or call or text 413-341-0148.