The Columbus area’s first solar co-op is being formed in Delaware County and is seeking members.
“Our organization earlier this year started the first co-op in the state of Ohio up in Lorain County near Cleveland,” said Ben Delman, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Community Power Network. “We have over the years developed state solar co-op programs here in the district, and then Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and now Ohio. The reason we’re in Delaware County is we’re looking for communities where folks are eager to help their neighbors go solar, and we got a great response.”
The Community Power Network is a network of advocates for local renewable energy projects. It has groups in each state it has co-ops in, and Ohio’s is called OH SUN.
“This co-op is a great opportunity to go solar with the support of a nonprofit and with a community of your neighbors,” said Luke Sulfridge, OH SUN program manager, in a prepared statement. Sustainable Delaware and OH SUN are the co-op sponsors.
An informational meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, in Mingo Park’s Hilborn Room, 500 E. Lincoln Ave.
About 1,100 people have been in Community Power Network’s co-ops. The Delaware County co-op needs 20 or 25 members to get started. The co-op then will ask for quotes from solar panel installers, and select a vendor. Delman called it a member-driven process.
“The advantage of going together with a co-op is one, because it’s in a bulk purchase, that helps the installer the group selects to buy in bulk as well and get permitting in one stop,” Delman said. “On average, our co-op members are saving 20 percent of the cost of installation. The other big advantage is you have a group of people you’re working with – experts from OH SUN help you understand the process and that you’re making the right decision in going solar.”
Billing is done by net metering, which credits solar owners for the electricity they add to the grid. The panels do go off during power outages in order to protect utility workers.
While going solar requires an upfront expense for the panels and other equipment that varies depending on the size of one’s home, Delman said owners can see a payback in a decade. In addition, the price of solar panels has been cut in half in the last five years. In addition, an installed system lasts 25 to 30 years.
In addition to solar being a clean form of energy, Delman said people are joining co-ops because “it’s a way for people to take control of their own energy. … People want that independence. It’s a definite investment, but I think once people go through the process they can feel confident about making the decision that’s right for them.”
To join the co-op without a commitment, sign up at www.ohsun.org/delaware.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.