Solar Co-op – safety in numbers

BY TERESA LO

Safety in numbers can apply to situations such as traveling, rock climbing, or, signing up for solar panel installations.

Takoma Park’s Public Works Department is working with Community Power Network to form a solar co-op for the Takoma Park and Silver Spring community, said Gina Mathias, Takoma Park Sustainability Manager.

Discounts

A solar co-op allows the group of residents to look for a solar panel installer together and to get a group discount on installation. However  residents will each sign their own contracts with the installer and get individual panels on their houses.

Takoma Park resident Jennifer Shields is interested in the co-op because people who are informed about the subject will help her choose a good installer.

“There’s safety in numbers and [Community Power Network] obviously has experience and know what they’re doing, so it’s reassuring,” said Shields.

A worry that Shields has is whether there will be protection for the panel wires on the roof. She fears that the squirrels that frequent her roof will chew through the wires if there is no protection.

By the plan

The public works department initiated the co-op based on the Takoma Park council’s sustainable action plan. The action plan’s priority is to increase solar installation in the city, said Mathias, the public works department’s sustainability manager.

When residents express interest in the co-op, CPN does a Google maps scan of their roof in order to make sure that it is not too shady and that the roof is secure enough to support the panels, said Anya Schoolman, a representative from CPN.

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Solar array on the Takoma Park Public Works Department building. Photo courtesy Gina Mathias,
Takoma Park Sustainability Manager.

Once CPN has a secure group of residents who are committed to the co-op, it will send out a request for solar installation proposals. The group of residents will then form a selection committee to work with CPN to pick out the best installer for the group.

Shields said one of the only reasons she would back out of the co-op would be if the committee chose an installer that she was uncomfortable with. However she is “happy to let someone else decide,” she said.

Credits to sell

Many people who get solar panels installed don’t actually use the energy to power their house, said Sat Jiwan Ikle-Khalsa, a member of the Takoma Park Committee on the Environment. Instead they get energy credits they can sell to utility companies, such as PEPCO, who need to fulfill requirements for renewable energy sources.

Ikle-Khalsa said that the informational meetings set up by the public works department spoke clearly about that issue.

The next information meeting for the solar co-op will be Wednesday, December 10, 7:00 p.m, Takoma Park Community Center Auditorium, 7500 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park, MD. Link: City of Takoma Park and Community Power Network’s project MD SUN.