County joins solar co-op for residents, businesses

Sep 27, 2019 05:56 PM ET
A nonprofit organization is forming a solar co-op to help those interested in purchasing solar panels.

Solar United Neighbors brought together organizations, including the Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources, to help sponsor the co-op, which is targeted at residents, nonprofits and small businesses in Frederick and Washington counties and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.

The co-op is non-committal. Those who sign up just indicate their interest, said Shannon Moore, manager of the Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources.

Once Solar United Neighbors gets an idea of interest, they will put out a call for bids for a solar company that would provide solar panels. The nonprofit will then handle the bid competition, said Autumn Long, state director for the West Virginia program.

There is no commitment or fees until the person, small business owner or nonprofit leader decides to sign a contract with the installation company, Long said.

“You get very competitive pricing,” she said.

Solar power is purchased in kilowatts, not panels. Typically, a home needs between three and 12 kilowatts, although it depends on electricity usage and the size of the house, she said.

Solar power is a good way to save money, Long said. Those who use solar power get a tax credit and it saves money on electric bills.

It is also renewable because “the sun shines for free every day,” Long said.

Right now, prices are more affordable, she said. There’s a 26 percent tax credit on the federal tax for those using solar, she said.

This is the second time that Frederick County has partnered with Solar United Neighbors, Moore said.

The first time, they did 30 installations.

“It’s kind of a win-win for us because we’re not putting any taxpayer money into it,” she said.

The solar co-op is helpful because people are often able to get wholesale prices for solar panels. They are also able to feel confident they got the right deal, she said.

“A lot of people are interested in solar, but they aren’t sure how to do it right,” Moore said.

Solar United Neighbors will be holding information sessions in Frederick, as well as Hagerstown and West Virginia for those interested in joining. People can sign up at the meeting or online.

The first Solar United Neighbors meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Urbana Regional Library. There will be another meeting Oct. 23 in Winchester Hall and Nov. 20 at Thurmont Regional Library.

Signups will occur in November, Moore said in an email, with the request for proposals finishing at the end of the year. Installations are expected to happen in the spring.

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