Save Money on Solar; Buy in Bulk

Solar Market Trend

ASTI Newsletter | November 2013 Edition | By Eileen Hays

Solarize Portland

Photo courtesy of Solar City

If the Costco bulk-purchasing model can drive down the costs of goods like milk and laptops, why couldn’t it work for buying solar PV panels for home rooftops? A group of homeowners in Portland, Oregon asked the same question and decided to try this model out. They organized a grassroots effort to jointly “go solar,” giving them more collective purchasing power in order to help overcome many of the logistical and financial barriers to installing solar.

Solarize Portland, as the program came to be known, not only lowered the market price for solar by more than 30%, the economic activity from the program also drummed up more business for local installers beyond the program. Independent installations also grew dramatically after the program was launched. In just over two years, Solarize Portland installed PV systems on 560 homes with a combined capacity of 1.7 MW.

The initial Solarize campaign was such a huge success that the US Department of Energy provided the team with grant funding to expand the program throughout the City of Portland, and create a replicable bulk purchasing model for the country. With support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, stakeholders created the Solarize Guidebook as a roadmap for other communities considering a Solarize program of their own.

Starting in early 2013, ASTI regional partners in Southwest Colorado, led by 4CORE and the City of Durango, CO created their own program with ASTI support called Solarize La Plata.  To date, there are dozens of Solarize programs, including Salt Lake City, UT; Seattle, WA; Frederick County, MD; and Massachusetts, among others.

As a Solar Roadmap participant, we make it easier for you to implement a Solarize program in your community with the tools and expertise to help you identify interested neighbors, collect necessary energy use information, and support the vendor bidding process.

If you are interested in learning about how your community can implement a Solarize program, email

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