Crawford County residents might be seeing solar panels on local homes and businesses in the very near future. The Crawford-Mercer Solar Co-op recently made its selection for a solar panel installation company and will be moving forward with getting panels installed as soon as possible.
EIS Solar, based out of Pittsburgh, was picked by the group. The company will begin providing quotes to the co-op’s members and, if the co-op participant chooses to go through with it, install the solar panels at their location of choice.
A solar co-op is an organization of residents in a local area interested in getting into solar energy for their homes or businesses. By grouping together, the members of the co-op are able to get their panels installed at a discount by getting a bulk discount from their chosen company.
The Crawford-Mercer Solar Co-op was organized with the help of Solar United Neighbors, a non-profit which has helped form co-ops across Pennsylvania. The group also promotes solar energy in various states, including New Jersey, Florida and Minnesota. It has held public meetings across the two counties making up the co-op, last visiting Titusville in June 2018, and has been steadily attracting attention since.
According to Nick Seymor, communications coordinator for Solar United Neighbors, the co-op currently has 22 members and is still accepting sign ups through March 29.
Among its members is Kathy Licht, co-owner of Warner’s Bakery in Titusville. Licht signed on shortly after Solar United Neighbors held its meeting at Drake Well Museum.
“I think it’s a fabulous opportunity for anybody to capitalize on Mother Nature,” Licht said.
She is planning to use solar panels to power a restaurant that is being opened adjacent to the bakery. The panels would be placed on the roof of the restaurant and, if possible, may also give energy to the bakery as well.
By using solar panels, adopters of the technology will save money off their electric bill and possibly completely eliminate the bill during certain times of the year.
According to Solar United Neighbors Pennsylvania Program Director Henry McKay, during summer months a building can often run entirely off of solar energy, even producing more than is consumed. This excess energy is fed into the electric grid and the owner of the panels are reimbursed by the local utility company for contributing power.
Tamara Misner, another member of the co-op, said that she hopes to one day use solar energy to provide power to not just to her own Union City residence, but also to her neighbors as well.
“We live on a farm, so we have a lot of property [on which to place panels],” Misner said.
While legislation is not yet in place to allow people to do this, Misner is still interested in getting into solar energy if at least just for her own home.
Solar panels have rather large upfront expenses. According to McKay, the average 4-kW system, costs around $11,000 and can take around a decade to make up for their initial price tag in energy savings. By the end of the panel’s 25-year lifespan, however, McKay said that the system will generate around $14,000 in profit for a homeowner through lower electricity costs and reimbursements.
While the money aspect can be appealing, both Misner and Licht said that environmental concerns were a major part of why they choose to get involved with the co-op.
“I’ve been interested in alternative energy and finding other ways to get energy other than coal, oil and gas,” Misner said.
Licht said that fossil fuels are limited, while “the sun is the most unlimited resource we have.”
“People are always resistant to try something new, but I think solar [power] is something we’ll [all] be looking at in the near future,” she said.
Solar United Neighbors is planning one final information meeting for anyone interested in getting involved in the co-op. It will take place on March 13, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at 215 Arch St., Meadville. Seymor noted that joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase solar panels, but is a way to express interest and possibly utilize lower prices.
Ray can be reached, by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.