My new friend, Joy Loving is working hard to bring economical solar PV to everyone in the valley. Her story is pure, she wants more people to use clean energy here in the valley and is removing all obstacles that are in the way. I asked her to tell her story of how she got to a point of bringing affordable solar PV to her friends and friends she is yet to meet here in the valley – this is what she told me:
“I hope you have heard about Solarize Harrisonburg, a grass-roots effort to bring more solar power to Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Under this program, people who want to “go solar” leverage their bulk purchasing power to reduce their installation costs significantly. This effort’s early planning, under sponsorship of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV), got underway in spring 2014. I’ve been heading it up since the first public interest meeting in early June. I want to share how I came to be involved.
My husband and I decided in the summer of 2012 to install solar panels for our home. For some time I had been thinking about how we could lower our carbon footprint and buying a hybrid and putting in solar were the two ways we came up with. Our now two-year-old ground-mounted 7 KW PV system sits on a wonderful south-facing berm beside our garage and generates enough annual energy to cover our electricity usage and then some. It’s been really fun to get electric bills that show no net usage and only a small infrastructure fee and taxes.
Before and since installation, I spent a lot of time researching my options, the market, the costs, my utility company’s policies and procedures, and the VA law and regulations. I quickly found there are many complexities. I came to realize that, as a net metering customer, I was “fortunate” that my utility, Dominion Power, “allowed” me to send my kilowatts to the grid and credit them against our usage. This is because customers in my service area have not yet exceeded the cap Dominion is authorized by VA law to impose on accepting customer‑generated power. The more I learned the more irritated I got that, once the cap is reached in a service distribution area, a utility can refuse people the ability to generate electricity for the grid and lower their electricity bills. This cap seemed a way to discourage people from making a choice of a renewable energy electricity source and from using this method to reduce their monthly utility bills.
During that time I also began to understand better the role of fossil fuels in contributing to the severe weather events my state and the rest of the US and the world have been and will continue to experience. I realized that my small effort, by itself, would not contribute very much to mitigating the negative climate-caused weather effects. So I decided to try to be part of increasing the “solar footprint” in my part of the Shenandoah Valley and thus reducing our carbon footprint. When I learned about the Solarize Blacksburg movement from the CAAV folks, I saw an opportunity and “went for it”.
I haven’t been alone during the past 4 months of working on Solarize Harrisonburg. I’ve had considerable help from other CAAV members and from Community Power Network (CPN) and its VA SUN affiliate, non-profits that help communities in DC, MD, VA, and WV get more solar power by making it more affordable. Three JMU students also chose to assist me. Also, there are at least 7 other Solarize efforts underway in VA. It’s been very challenging to get the word out to folks but also gratifying to know that in a very short time over 100 persons have expressed strong interest in installing solar. I wish that number were larger but am happy that Solarize Harrisonburg will indeed raise our solar footprint.
The very favorable pricing that these 100+ people can receive won’t last indefinitely. Signup for the program ends on Halloween, Oct 31. The final public information meeting will happen on October 21 at the main library in Harrisonburg. Details are at http://www.vasun.org/solarize-virginia/solarize-harrisonburg/. Once this program ends, I hope to work on more ways to get solar power into my part of the world.
Joy is one of my heroes in the valley. Thanks for all you are doing for our future.