Residents of Fairfield may have yet another reason to enjoy sunny days.

The state's Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, SmartPower and the John Merck Fund recently chose the town to participate in Solarize Connecticut, a pilot program designed to encourage homeowners to use solar power. The initiative, modeled after a Massachusetts program and similar to plans in Oregon and Arizona, offers increasingly lower costs for photovoltaic installations as more homeowners participate through selected suppliers.

"This is to bear proof to the markets that aggregating customer demand for residential PV installation will result in real cost savings," authority spokesman David Goldberg said.

It also provides education, marketing and outreach through SmartPower, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit marketer of clean energy.

The towns of Westport, Durham and Portland were chosen for the program as well, according to a news release from the state agency.

They were chosen out of 10 municipalities that applied based on proposals showing a high level of commitment to the program, as well as creativity in execution, Goldberg said.

"They showed they had a really well-thought-out plan," he said.

One or two suppliers per town out of about 70 eligible firms meeting certain criteria, including ability to offer pricing based on the number of homeowner participants, were slated to be chosen Thursday, July 26, Goldberg said. Each supplier can apply to do business through the program in all four towns, but will be limited to just two of them.

"It's gratifying and exciting to be selected to participate in the pilot effort and to see where it can take us and Connecticut," First Selectman Mike Tetreau said in a statement.

Applications will be made available to homeowners once the program, funded in part by the John Merck Fund, a Boston clean-energy advocate, selects the suppliers, he said. Homeowners receiving rebates on solar systems through the state's Residential Solar Investment Program will also be eligible to participate in Solarize Connecticut.

"It'll be announced in a very clear manner on how to participate once that's ready to go," he said, emphasizing that the number of homeowners will determine the cost reduction. "Interested homeowners should stay tuned."

Homeowners will be offered a variety of participation plans, including direct ownership and leasing.

The agency expects to select four more communities early next year in a second phase of the program, which may expand depending on success, Goldberg said.

"Our expectation is we will receive even a larger number of applicants in the second phase because I think others will recognize the value of this program," he said.

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