Co-op aims to save hundreds of Columbus-area residents on solar panels

The City of Columbus and a group of nonprofits hope a fledgling solar energy cooperative will help residents of central Ohio install solar panels on their roofs and save money on their homes. electricity bills.

The group wants to achieve this in a number of ways, including walking owners through the process and helping them offset the cost by buying in bulk with other owners.

“We bring everyone together so they can do it as a group,” said Mryia Williams, Ohio program associate for Solar United Neighbors, a Washington DC-based nonprofit that helps families install solar panels.

The service will focus on Franklin County, but will be available to Columbus suburbs in neighboring counties. The initiative is part of the city’s climate action plan, a multi-faceted campaign to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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Columbus wants to have 50 megawatts of rooftop solar power by 2030, which would eliminate about 23,700 metric tons of carbon emissions, according to Sustainable Columbus. For context, Stratton’s HW Sammis coal plant produces 1,500 megawatts and Ohio was responsible for over 200 million tons of carbon emissions in 2018.

Installing solar panels on an average Ohio home can cost more than $9,400, even after available tax credits, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Lower energy bills and higher property values ​​will eventually offset this cost, but the upfront price is still prohibitive for many families.

Solar United Neighbors hopes to reduce the listed price by 15-20% through bulk purchases.

But cost is only one consideration, Williams said.

“There are a lot of different factors,” Williams said. Solar companies “start talking to you about kilowatts and kilowatt hours, and they ask if you want battery backup and what kind of wiring you want.”

Groups like his as well as Impact Community Action plan to offer logistical support and help with settling in.

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Williams, from Galloway, joined Solar United Neighbors after her experience installing solar panels on her own home, which she described as time-consuming and frustrating.

Williams had to battle with her homeowners association, which wanted her to place the panels in the back of her house, where they would capture far less sunlight.

“It took us 18 months to talk to our homeowners association,” she said.

State lawmakers have worked in recent months to remove barriers for homeowners who want to install solar panels.

Senate Bill 61, which was passed by the Ohio General Assembly last month, prohibits homeowners associations from imposing restrictions on solar panels, and a bill being debated at the legislature would allow neighbors to band together to pay for small solar installations.

“We know climate change is impacting the most vulnerable residents,” Columbus City Councilman Emmanuel Remy said, citing near-record heat in June.

Williams said homes in Linden and Franklinton have installed solar panels, which makes her confident the co-op can extend the benefits of solar power to low-income communities.

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The non-profit organization hopes to provide free solar panels to disadvantaged communities in the future.

For more information on participating in the Greater Columbus Cooperative, visit the Solar United Neighbors Ohio website.

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@PatrickACooley