Mountain Courier Series: Here Comes the Sun

DogwoodDr.SolarInstall.500Bruce McClinton’s coverage of solar energy use in the Shenandoah Valley has been published as a three part series in the Shenandoah County based Mountain Courier in the July, August and September 2015 issues.

Part 1: Home-grown Power offers a history and overview of solar energy use. “…(W)e examined how the plummeting prices and steadily increasing efficiency of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells is triggering what a recent MIT study describes as an ‘inevitable’ move toward a solar economy. While some countries and states are racing ahead, Virginia’s regulations are holding back development.”

Part 2: In Boutique Solar “…we talk to one Shenandoah County company not willing to wait for the politicians.” “… Edinburg entrepreneur Ed Kelly of Shenandoah Energy Services … finds creative ways to make solar energy blend into the homes and lives of his customers.”

Part 3: In Solar Co-ops: Working Together to Save “… we … see how the power of cooperative buying and the energies of dedicated volunteers helped dozens of home owners in Harrisonburg go solar. And how that option is coming to Shenandoah and Page counties next.”

Click here for a pdf of this series of articles. Find the entire edition of each Mountain Courier issue containing parts of this series by clicking on the corresponding cover below. Latest editions of the hard copies are available at the Edinburg Library.

July 2015

July 2015

August 2015

August 2015

September 2015

September 2015

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Massanutten Regional Solar Co-op

Hunter-Install-5.67-KW-300Launched in late August 2015, the Massanutten Regional Solar Co-op (MRSC) is a Round II of Solarize Harrisonburg. Besides again covering residents of the City of Harrisonburg and of Rockingham County, this co-op also includes Page and Shenandoah County homes and businesses.

See the press release issued on August 26, 2015, about the formation of MRSC here.

Once again the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley has partnered with VA SUN to form a group for bulk purchase of solar equipment and installation which has proven to offer significant cost and time savings for participants. Groups have access to the experience of the many solar co-ops that have formed in Virginia and realize discounted prices due to regional volume.

Sign-ups will be accepted through January 31, 2016. Sign up HERE.

Installer selection announcement on November 17: “On behalf of our community partners Joy Loving and Dennis Atwood and Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, it’s been a busy couple of weeks here and we’re happy to announce the decision of the Massanutten Regional Solar Co-op Selection Committee! The group received very competitive bids, so the 16 volunteers who made up the Committee had a difficult decision. In the end, the group selected Independent Solar Solutions to be the installer for the co-op.” – Aaron Sutch, VA SUN Program Director

Informational meetings were held throughout the fall to explain the co-op process and answer questions:

  • Thursday, September 3, 2015, 6PM @ Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg
  • Thursday, September 10, 2015, 6PM @ Shenandoah Public Library, 514 Stoney Creek Blvd., Edinburg
  • Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 6PM @ Plains District Community Center, 233 McCauley Dr., Timberville
  • Thursday, October 15, 2015, 6PM @ Bridgewater Community Center, 201 Green St., Bridgewater
  • Thursday, October 22, 2015, 6PM @ Community Center, 20593 Blue and Gold Dr., Elkton
  • Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 6PM @ Strasburg Town Hall, Town Council Meeting Room, 174 East King St., Strasburg
  • Thursday, October 29, 2015, 6PM @ Trackside Theater, 32-B E. Main St., Luray
  • Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 6PM @ Rockingham County Fire and Rescue Meeting Room, Rockingham County Administration Center, 20 E. Gay St., Harrisonburg

VASUNlogo.8.15Find out more about going solar with a co-op on VA SUN’s Massanutten Regional Solar Co-op webpage here.

You’ll also find the sign up form here to get your roof accessed (free!) to see if your home or business is a good fit for photovoltaic solar electricity production.

If you’ve ever wanted to go solar and live in Harrisonburg or Rockingham, Page or Shenandoah Counties, now is your chance!

Anyone able to support our outreach and publicity efforts, please get in touch with Joy Loving at jal_1998 [at] yahoo.com.

To contact VASUN, email: solarteam[at]vasun.org.

See us featured through various news outlets here.

Reasons to go solar here!

edgeofhorizon-600

During the fall semester of 2016, JMU School of Media Arts and Design students created this film, The Edge of the Horizon, showing “… the efforts of Harrisonburg community members doing their part to address climate change by investing in solar energy.” It premiered at DocFest 2016 on December 15, 2016, at Court Square Theater.

Solarize Harrisonburg Celebration & Solarize Hburg 2.0

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Red markers indicate completed installations as of April 21, 2015. Orange markers are locations of scheduled installations.

As of April 21, 2015, Solarize Harrisonburg had succeeded in gathering 66 contracts for residential photovoltaic solar panel installations through Sigora Solar with over half having been installed.

This was cause for a celebration which is step number 9 in the solar coop process. Wednesday evening, May 13, found many of the Solarize Harrisonburg members gathered at Clementine’s Ruby’s Lounge to socialize over appetizers provided by Sigora Solar, view photos of the installations and offer appreciation for the individuals and groups involved in the project’s success.

VA SUN’s program director Aaron Sutch handed out awards to:

  • Dave Pruett for his excellent outreach work through his Huffington Post article, The Great Transition, which appeared on March 19, 2015
  • Bishop Dansby for his policy work promoting solar energy
  • Zach Nyce and Brian O’Dell of the Harrisonburg Electric Commission with additional recognition of Jason Burch with the Shenandoah Valley Electric Coop
  • Joy Loving for her amazing local leadership
  • The City of Harrisonburg for becoming a Solar City
  • The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley for their partnership:

As our on the ground organization partner of the year for their excellent work in making Solarize Harrisonburg our most successful Virginia Solar Co-op to date. They prove that a small, passionate group of people are capable of empowering others to act locally while making a global impact. For this we recognize CAAV on this day Wednesday, May 13, 2015.

Finally Aaron announced plans to launch a second round of Solarize Harrisonburg in August 2015! More here.

VASUN Communications Manager Ben Delman wrote about this in his May 20 post to the VASUN website here: Solarize Harrisonburg Builds on Success to Start New Group

The Daily News-Record’s Elaina Sauber covered this project in an article published on June 20, 2015: ‘Solarize Harrisonburg’ Shines Bright

Solarize Harrisonburg Makes The Breeze

JoyatMarket

Photo of Joy Loving by The Breeze photographer Matt Schmachtenberg at Solarize Harrisonburg’s table at the Farmers Market on October 4.

Robyn Smith, editor and journalist with JMU’s The Breeze, wrote a fine article about Solarize Harrisonburg which was posted online on Sunday, October 5 and appeared in the Monday, October 6, 2014, print edition. See the online version here: Solar Energy is a priority for the Climate Action Alliance.

The article features Solarize Harrisonburg’s local coordinator and CAAV steering committee member Joy Loving:

“Loving installed solar panels in her home back in 2012, which led to personal enlightenment, as well as a lightening of her electric bill. …

The more conscious Loving became of her own energy use, the more she turned against mainstream sources of energy.

‘I tell people I became like an ex-smoker who is very anti-cigarettes. I am now rabidly pro-solar. Most people do not enjoy getting their electric bills and I now enjoy getting mine, because I pay $8.40 a month [instead of the $100 a month pre-switch] for infrastructure costs,’ Loving said.”

Joy will be featured on WMRA’s The Spark with Martha Woodroof on Friday, October 10 at 6:20 PM: Joy and Sunshine. Find it at 90.7 FM on Friday evening or archived online after it airs.

 

Sigora Solar Selected as Installer!

sigoralogofrom Community Power Networks’ Aaron Sutch as posted to the VASUN website on September 25, 2014:

Members of Solarize Harrisonburg Solar Co-Op Select Sigora Solar as Bulk Installer

More than 75 residents of Harrisonburg Virginia have organized into a solar co-op leveraging their collective buying power to go solar together at dramatically reduced costs. Following a competitive bidding process, the group selected Waynesboro VA-based Sigora Solar to complete the co-op’s installations.

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) organized Solarize Harrisonburg in late spring 2014. It partnered with the D.C.-based non-profit Community Power Network (CPN) to learn about solar, host information meetings, and solicit bids from local installers. Joy Loving of CAAV explains the value of the partnership in helping the Co-op move forward:

“We’re able to count on the expertise of CPN to handle the technical details of the solarize process while leveraging our presence in the community to reach out to more participants wishing to install solar affordably through the co-op.”

Co-op members are excited to select Sigora Solar for their competitive price, ability to provide quality components and customer service, and commitment to improving the communities in which they work. Founded in 2011, Sigora’s mission is to provide the highest quality turnkey solar installations while embracing their responsibility to reinvest in local communities and ethically source materials. “Our goal is to help as many people as possible in Harrisonburg get a quality solar installation at a great price,” said Sigora President Andy Bindea. He added:

“I’m really happy to be part of the Solarize movement. It’s helping grow the solar industry in Virginia while empowering communities across the state to preserve the environment and save on rising energy costs.”

Joy and other members of CAAV are helping to recruit people from the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County area to join the group. New members can continue to join the group through October 31st.

Solarize Harrisonburg will hold its final public information meeting at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 So. Main St., Harrisonburg, on Tuesday October 21 at 6 PM. More information including a sign up form is available at the Solarize Harrisonburg web page: http://www.vasun.org/solarize-virginia/solarize-harrisonburg/.

Join the Solar Installer Selection Committee!

solar-panel-1428025-mWe now have over 70 people signed up for the solar co-op–
keep up the great work talking to your friends and neighbors!

Our Request For Proposals to area installers is due this Friday, September 12 and we have already begun to receive bids! We are now looking for Co-op members to help us select the installer for the program.

If you would like to participate in selecting the installer, join us for
the Bid Selection Committee meeting: Thursday, September 18, 6:30 PM at 1920 Medical Ave., Harrisonburg. The meeting will be held at the dental office of Bob Detrich who has graciously volunteered the space for the evening.

If you would like to be involved, please RSVP back to me either at solarizeharrisonburg[at]vasun.org or aaron[at]vasun.org

A few notes on the process:

– No solar knowledge is required to be a committee participant.
– Before the committee meeting, we will compile a spreadsheet with details of all the bids so that an apples to apples comparison can be made.
– Community Power Network facilitates the process and has no vote in selecting the installer
– An installer will be selected before the meeting adjourns.

Best,
Aaron Sutch
Solarize Harrisonburg
September 10, 2014

https://www.facebook.com/events/1459000154374834/

Solarize Harrisonburg is Happening!

Press Release, July 18, 2014:  Solarize Harrisonburg is Happening!

solarizehburg.yesA local environmental group, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV), is launching a Solarize Harrisonburg program.  This program is part of a grass roots effort in the U.S. to increase the use of solar to produce energy and to lower installation and equipment costs through a bulk purchase process.  Currently there are such efforts underway in several states and, within VA, in Charlottesville, Blacksburg, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Northern VA.

CAAV sponsored an initial, interest-gathering meeting on June 2 that was attended by over 100 persons.  Subsequently, CAAV decided to sponsor a Solarize Harrisonburg group.  Initially, the focus will be on the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County areas.  If the interest is there, the group may consider expansion into nearby cities and counties.  The Solarize Harrisonburg group has established a web site, www.vasun.org/solarize-virginia/solarize-harrisonburg, and is partnering with the Community Power Network (CPN)/VA Sun to move forward.

A CAAV member, Joy Loving, Rockingham County resident and solar system owner, has agreed to lead the effort initially.  In a June 19 Open Forum published in the Daily News-Record, Loving wrote “As a cost conscious consumer and owner of a home powered by solar electricity since October 2012, I welcomed the opportunity to learn about the growing ‘Solarize’ movement.  The many questions from other attendees yielded even more useful information.  Since the Harrisonburg event took place, I have asked for status updates from several Virginia ‘Solarize’ efforts,  and I look forward to better understanding their experiences and results.  I believe many people could benefit from knowing more about their renewable energy alternatives, especially solar.”

Info Meeting
Solarize Harrisonburg will have a community meeting and solar information session with representatives of (CPN/VA SUN on July 28, 2014.  The meeting will take place at 6:00 PM at Massanutten Regional Library, 174 South Main Street, Harrisonburg.  CPN works with interested people in a geographic area to initiate formation of a solar cooperative.  Once established, CPN can then assist the cooperative with the many aspects (e.g., analytical, financial, technical) that such an effort involves.  This purpose of this meeting is to generate interest, describe the process to attendees, get questions answered and begin the necessary organizational tasks.

Joining the Group
Anyone who is interested in going solar or in helping this initiative get underway can fill out the survey on the Solarize Harrisonburg web site.  For those who express interest in installing solar, CPN will do a satellite assessment to see if their roof is a good fit for solar.  For those offering to help, Solarize Harrisonburg will use the information from the sign up form to begin the process of matching talents/skills to the various areas in which it needs expertise.  “Completing the sign up form does not obligate one to install a solar system.  But it does make the person part of this exciting local initiative,” said Loving.

She added:  “Getting the word out about our local Solarize program is vital.  Folks who believe they might be interested should complete the survey and let their friends, neighbors, co workers, homeowners associations, fellow congregants or other potentially interested persons (like area farmers) know about the July 28 meeting and invite them to attend.  The whole idea is to lower each person’s costs so the more folks who participate the lower the cost is likely to be!”

More about Solarize Harrisonburg here.

What Is Solarize Harrisonburg?

Full house at Solarize Hburg's June 2, 2014, exploratory forum.

Full house at Solarize Hburg’s June 2, 2014, exploratory forum.

  • The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) sponsored an initial public meeting on June 2, 2014.  An informational session, it was well attended, with over 100 persons listening to several speakers, including representatives of Community Power Network (CPN) and Sierra Club.
  • The second Solarize Harrisonburg meeting, to formally launch this initiative, will happen on July 28, 2014, at Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S Main St., Harrisonburg, VA, at 6 PM.  The public is welcome.   Representatives from Community Power Network will provide specific details about the project and answer questions.  After the meeting, the effort will continue with organizational activities and development of a request for proposal (RFP) to be issued to solar installers.
  • Solarize Harrisonburg has a web site: www.vasun.org/solarize-virginia/solarize-harrisonburg.  To sign up in advance of the meeting and receive a free satellite roof analysis of your building’s solar suitability, complete the survey form at this site.  Solarize Harrisonburg is partnering with CPN, which has extensive experience in helping communities increase their “solar footprint.”  The email address is:  solarizeharrisonburg@vasun.org.
  • Solarize Harrisonburg desires to support low-income energy users, energy conservation programs, renewable energy programs, and the advancement of green building principles. To that end, Solarize Harrisonburg seeks to dramatically increase the use of clean, renewable solar power in the Harrisonburg area and to provide local home and business owners with an opportunity to install solar panels at an affordable rate.
  • Across VA, families have wanted to take control of their own electricity for decades to provide relief from rate hikes and from unreliable utilities and to reduce their impact on our environment.  The solar power option has been too expensive, with large upfront costs that have put it out of reach for middle-class families, and without standardized financing options.
  • Solarize Harrisonburg will address these issues in the area by creating an easy and affordable way for area homeowners and businesses to own and benefit from their own solar electricity systems.  The project will include the following components:

1.    Bundling of individual solar contracts to allow participants to benefit from bulk purchasing through a competitive bidding process.  The chosen installer will provide a single price per installed Watt for all participating cooperative members.
2.    Community-based marketing strategy to encourage neighbors to go solar together.  This marketing strategy will include public solar seminars and information sessions, email and personal outreach, and earned media opportunities.
3.    Consumer advocacy and technical analysis for cooperative members—ensuring that members receive unbiased, third party assistance from providing trained site assessments, to reviewing bids on behalf of the group, to arranging affordable financing, and ensuring quality installations.
4.    A streamlined financing procedure that removes the upfront cost barrier for families and farms in Harrisonburg, VA.

  • CPN will provide consulting services to the Solarize Harrisonburg effort, including:

1.    Develop informational materials to help educate participants on the basics and economics of going solar.
2.    Conduct initial satellite assessment and answer technical, policy, and financial questions to prospective homeowners.
3.    Conduct due diligence and review of proposals, to allow coop members in making a final choice of installers.
4.    Ensure quality and timely installations.
5.    Bring any concerns about installer workmanship, pricing, or activities to the attention of the chosen installer and Solarize Harrisonburg.
6.    Continue post-installation engagement to build the movement for solar in VA.

  • CPN will support the formation of Solarize Harrisonburg through:

1.    Promoting public information sessions to its membership and the broader Harrisonburg community.
2.    Serving as the community anchor and public face for this local effort.
3.    Providing institutional backing and community support to the project through social and traditional media channels.
4.    Helping ensure the project reflects the culture, needs and desire of the local participants.
5.    Helping design follow up actions and next steps for the group.

Click on the image below for a full-sized view of this one page flyer about Solarize Harrisonburg. Consider printing copies to distribute to your neighbors! The more homes involved, the greater the success of this project.

SolHgetting.started

Frequently Asked Questions with more details about how VA Solar Co-op programs work is here.

SolarCoopFAQ

RMIlogoThe Rise of Solar Co-ops, Laurie Guevara-Stone, April 22, 2014, Rocky Mountain Institute blogsite.

Solarize Harrisonburg!

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Anya Schoolman laying out the plan.

A final Solarize Harrisonburg Information Session will be held on Tuesday, October 21, 6 PM at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg. Get your questions answered. Everyone welcome!

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Solarize Harrisonburg Information Session Monday, July 28, 6 PM at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg. Everyone welcome!

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Many thanks to Anya Schoolman, Ivy Main, Tom Benevento, and Richard Baugh for their inspiring presentations, and to everyone who came out to the June 2 forum to start learning about how we can boost solar power in Harrisonburg!

Email contactcaav [at] gmail.com to get on an email list to stay informed about how we may continue organizing to make this happen.

Community Power Network has set up a webpage for our Solarize Harrisonburg efforts through the VASUN citizens network site. Sign up to go solar! Bookmark the site to stay informed about our progress!

Check out some of the conservative cost figures based on Solarize Blacksburg provided by Anya here.

Read Ivy’s Where are the Renewables? Wind and solar policy in Virginia, some of which she covered in her presentation on June 2.

“Like” Solarize Harrisonburg on facebook!

See CAAV steering committee member Joy Loving’s Open Forum opinion piece in the Daily News-Record as published on June 19, 2014: It’s Time to Solarize Homes. Joy has agreed to take the lead for CAAV on next steps for our area solarize effort. She is communicating with Anya Schoolman of Community Power Network and reaching out to interested parties. Contact her to get involved with leadership on this project at jal_1998 [at] yahoo.com.

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solarizehburg.585If you’ve been thinking about getting your own rooftop solar panels but have held off because of the high initial cost, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley may have a solution for you. We will be exploring the pros and cons of neighborhood solar cooperatives and other solar bulk purchase programs at a meeting on Monday, June 2 at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg, from 6-7:30 PM. Speakers will include *Dan Conant of the Community Power Network, Ivy Main from Sierra Virginia and Harrisonburg City Council Member Richard Baugh.

By getting together with others in their community to buy large quantities of the panels cooperatively, residents of Blacksburg and Richmond have been able to cut their purchase and installation costs significantly. Groups like the Community Power Network help educate interested buyers about photovoltaic solar panels and do a survey of each home to determine whether the roof is even suitable for solar. Then they help the group navigate both the bidding for lowest price but high quality panels and installation as well as the necessary arrangements with the local electric utility. All contracts are still between the individual and the installer.

To learn more about this powerful (!) opportunity, please join us to see if we can all help Harrisonburg go solar!

Our forum guests:

*Dan Conant is Virginia and West Virginia Program Director for the Community Power Network, a D.C. based non-profit alliance dedicated to making solar energy accessible and affordable for all communities.

Ivy Main is Chair of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and an educated voice for renewable energy in VA.

Richard Baugh is a practicing attorney who has served the City of Harrisonburg as Council Member since 2008.

Tom Benevento of the New Community Project in Harrisonburg will provide a brief appeal for the consideration of energy efficiency updates to a home when installing solar energy.

*May 31 update: Anya Schoolman, the Executive Director of Community Power Network and founder of the DC SUN solar co-ops, will be our speaker and representative of CPN instead of Dan Conant. From Dan: “Anya’s a real pioneer when it comes to community solar programs (she was just named one of President Obama’s ‘Solar Champions of Change’). …Anya was going to be passing through Harrisonburg on the way to SW VA on Monday … so we thought it would be good for her to give the solar co-op presentation in my stead.  Don’t worry–she’s an upgrade over me in any case!  She’ll be able to talk about her personal experience forming co-ops all around DC.”