By Kylee Sapp
Rockbridge area residents are one step closer to getting access to solar power. The Rockbridge Area Solar Co-op is wrapping up sign-ups and beginning site visits.
People interested in renewable energy can invest in discounted solar panels from Rockbridge Solar Co-op, which now has 88 members. The members have had their roof or yard approved for solar panels, and are beginning the installation process.
Chris Wise is Washington and Lee University’s environmental management coordinator and is involved with the co-op. He said that the co-op picked Sigora Solar to do the installations out of four firms that originally bid on the project.
“Sigora reps are presently contacting co-op members to do an on-site (versus aerial photo) evaluation of each building and answering questions and developing proposals for each installation,” Wise said. “After a plan for the installation and a price are agreed upon between the owner and Sigora, a contract is signed, parts are ordered and installations can begin.”
Additionally, BARC Electric Cooperative has begun construction on a community solar project that it hopes to have fully operational in August. Anyone who is a member of BARC, regardless of where they live, can subscribe.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Members can have up to 25% of their power come from solar panels. The price for the solar energy will be fixed for the next 20 years, and each block of solar energy, which is 50 kilowatt hours, will only cost $1 more than a regular block of energy.”[/pullquote]
“If they have a desire for solar energy, they work with us and subscribe to some of the output by determining how much of their power bill they want to purchase with solar and how much they want to continue to buy with their regular tariff,” said Dave Clinton, manager of finance and member services at BARC.
Members of BARC can have up to 25 percent of their power come from solar panels. The price for the solar energy will be fixed for the next 20 years, and each block of solar energy, which is 50 kilowatt-hours, will only cost $1 more than a regular block of energy.
“We’ve had demand from our customers for solar and so we’re trying to find an efficient way and cost-effective way to meet that demand,” Clinton said. BARC installations include “no cash [upfront], no ownership responsibilities, and it’s on average significantly cheaper than an individually owned project,” he said.
Unlike the members of BARC, members of the co-op will have to pay for solar panels to be installed on their property. The average solar panel system costs about $11,000, but members of the co-op can save up to 20 percent.
They also have the advantage of net metering — if they are producing energy, their energy meter runs backward.
The co-op and Sigora representatives are meeting at Macado’s in Lexington on March 23 for members and those interested in solar energy installation.
New members can sign up through March 31, and site visits will be completed by April 30.