Pitt-Greensburg presentation will focus on ‘going solar’ with a community co-op | TribLIVE.com

Pitt-Greensburg presentation will focus on ‘going solar’ with a community co-op

Patrick Varine
Tribune-Review file
Michael Fercana of Astrum Solar installs a solar panel array Wednesday, March 2, 2011, on the roof of Dr. Mike Ramsey’s home on the North Side.

“Going solar” — that is to say, creating a solar-powered method for generating a home’s electricity — can be a daunting prospect for the average homeowner.

But what if a bunch of the people in your neighborhood were doing it at the same time?

That was the driving force behind Solar United Neighbors, who will give an Aug. 19 presentation at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg on forming a solar cooperative.

“There were about 50 neighbors in the Washington, D.C., area who went solar together in 2007,” said Henry McKay, Pennsylvania program director for Solar United Neighbors. “We were sharing information and getting one installer to do all of the homes for a little bit of a reduced price. And then a few years later we incorporated as a national nonprofit.”

Solar panels, McKay said, have gotten more efficient and cheaper to manufacture in the past decade, and installers’ ability to reach more customers has improved.

“As the market has matured and more people have become aware of the option, they’re driving a lot of growth,” he said.

In regions like Westmoreland County, McKay said the co-op presentations have found a largely receptive audience.

“In rural areas, there are people who are excited about solar because they like the idea of energy independence and saving money,” he said.

Solar United Neighbors, along with Protect P-T, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club and Voice of Westmoreland will host the event, set for 7 p.m. Aug. 19 at the university’s Powers Hall Auditorium on the campus, 150 Finoli Drive in Hempfield.

U.S. consumers installed 2.7 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity in the first quarter of 2019, bringing the country’s total capacity to about 67 gigawatts, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That is sufficient to power 12.7 million American homes.

The association estimates that total solar capacity in the United States will double over the next five years.

“If you want to help bring sustainable, affordable energy into your community, this is a great way to do that,” Protect P-T Executive Director Gillian Graber said.

McKay said while Solar United Neighbors can provide the framework, the community has to take the lead.

“A successful co-op is successful because local community folks decide, ‘We want to support this and grow it in our community,’” he said.

For more, see SolarUnitedNeighbors.org/Pennsylvania.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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