Many in Virginia, and across the country, are making the effort to go #solar. Joy Loving is one such individual. It started back in 2012 when she bought a Prius to reduce her carbon footprint. Going solar was her next step. She converted her home so it would utilize solar #energy and started to lead solar cooperatives in her Harrisonburg community. She found many others were interested in going solar, too.
Loving founded #Solarize Harrisonburg, a co-op that took off thanks to the help of #Solar United Neighbors (#SUN) – a national organization that represents the needs of solar owners and supporters. Solar United Neighbors helps businesses and homeowners to get started with rooftop solar.
SUN’s program director in VA, #Aaron Sutch, discussed how their work focuses on rooftop solar and is devoted to giving control back to local communities when it comes to energy. The organization is not only helping to build clean energy, but it is helping to create jobs while giving consumers more power and independence.
Solar Co-Ops and Installers
SUN brings businesses and individuals together to create solar co-ops in communities. When the co-ops grow big enough in size, SUN then matches the groups with local solar installers. Those who are part of the co-op are able to go over various bids and select an installer. The chosen installer then assists with a customized plan to go solar.
SUN said that as of November, it has helped more than 840 families in Virginia to convert to rooftop solar.
SUN has impressive goals. Another objective is to encourage homeowners to be their own activist when it comes to their energy rights. One example of this is the efforts being made to lift the cap on net metering in Virginia. Net metering, of course, means solar homeowners are compensated for producing a greater amount of electricity on a monthly basis than they consume. The extra energy is fed, under net metering, to the public grid. Any extra is used to offset monthly energy bills. Back in March, a bill was passed by the General Assembly to raise the net metering cap in VA for not-for-profit solar owners to 2 percent. SUN praised this legislation.
This same bill allows utilities that are investor-owned to develop solar projects by letting Virginians participate in a subscription program. Unfortunately, there is still work to be done as it falls short of utility-scale solar.
It is the belief of people such as Sutch that residents in VA should be able to participate in community solar projects. Why? Because doing so lets businesses and individuals get credit for their bill from a local shared solar project, which then lets renters benefit from clean energy regardless of their ability to install their own solar rooftop system.
The key problem in the state of VA is that the energy system is deferred to Dominion Energy’s monopoly – schools and churches, for instance, are prevented from generating their own power outside of what is provided by Dominion (except in rare cases such as weather-related emergencies).
How SUN Got Started in D.C.
Back in 2009, SUN got its start in D.C. – it stemmed from the Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative which was started by #Anya Schoolman. After her son and a friend watched a documentary about climate change called “An Inconvenient Truth,” they wanted to go solar to help fight climate change. Schoolman realized the expenses involved and questioned if converting her neighborhood in bulk was the answer.
In a matter of just a couple weeks, at least 50 neighbors wanted to join in and install rooftop solar. This group eventually became the first solar co-op in D.C.
DC SUN was created by Schoolman to imitate the achievement of its neighborhood co-op and it eventually spread to nearby states. In 2017, Solar United Neighbors became a nationwide program offering memberships.
SUN offers a host of other programs designed to provide Virginians with the information needed to go solar.
Loving is continuing to assist in the establishment of other solar co-ops in the Shenandoah Valley. Clearly, efforts worth discussing are being made in Virginia. Keep following solar news to stay in the know and to discover what is happening by you!