by Greg Rodman S olarUnitedNeighborsbegan itsworkover adecadeago with five simple words: “Mom, can we go solar?” This was asked of our Executive Director, Anya Schoolman by her then middle school aged son Walter, after he and his friend Diego had just seen “An Inconvenient Truth” an Oscar-winning documentary about the environment and the pair were motivated to take action. Up to the challenge put upon her by her son and his friend, Anya looked into going solar, but at the time it was expensive and complicated. Anya also quickly realized that if she was going to put in the time and work into making her own home solar, she might as well do it for the whole neighborhood. So, Walter and Diego canvassed their block and successfully got about 50 neighbors on board over a period of a couple of years and the first solar co-op was born. Word of this effort spread about this project around Washington, D.C and soon other neighborhoods followed suit. Fast forward to today, Solar United Neighbors helps thousands of homeowners across the country go solar each year. In the U.S. alone 2.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) capacity was installed in the first quarter for 2019 increasing the total installed capacity to 67 GW, enough to power 12.7 million American homes. This represents an impressive year-over-year increase of 10%. In saying that, the total installed U.S. PV capacity is expected to more than double over the next five years and by 2024, more than 15 GW of PV capacity will be installed to the growing total installed capacity annually. This month Spotlight on Business spoke with Carra Cheslin, Director of Engagement and Ben Delman, Communications Director of Solar United Neighbors about the non-profit that started in Washington, D.C. back in 2007 after a simple question about solar that now supports communities in 13 states and has overseen 4,100 installations for a total of 32 megawatts of electricity. So how does Solar United Neighbors help people make the switch to solar energy? According to Delman, “First it is to educate people about solar energy and the benefit of going solar,” Delman goes on to say, “then it is about helping them go solar, whether that is installing solar panels on their home and or business, or having them participate in a community solar project, it is all about building a community of solar supporters.” You understand when speaking to Delman the importance of having a community of supporters who are not only excited about solar, but that are also educated and engaged with their communities. “They make a real strong and compelling group of advocates for solar energy and the benefits that can be had for everyone as more and more people make the switch to solar energy, “say Delman.


— Over a Decade of Supporting Solar Communities




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