Solar Co-ops: Neighborhood “Solar Support Groups” Reap Big Savings

This article, by Andrew Schein and Kara Turtinen, originally appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of the Green American.    Visit the Green America Web site to subscribe to the Green American. When Tim O’Neil approached fellow Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association member Stephanie Stewart in 2009 about starting a solar buying cooperative in their suburban Portland community, she loved the idea. “Literally within a couple of days, Stephanie had created a Web site and a logo,” says O’Neil. Then O’Neil and Stewart turned to Lizzie Rubado of the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon to help them put together workshops on installing solar panels. Originally, the new team expected to sign up 50 or so people, and they hoped that about 10-20 would go through with the installation. After all, 2008 saw only 38 solar panel installations across the entire city of Portland, Rubado says. To their surprise, about 300 people signed up for what would become the Solarize Portland solar buying co-op. One-hundred and twenty homeowners installed solar panels that year.

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