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SOLAR POWER COOPERATIVE GAINS MOMENTUM

South Boston News
Aaron Sutch, director of Sun VA explained to some 50 people how they might become a solar co-op member during a meeting Saturday at the STEM Center in Halifax. (SOMcL photo)
SoVaNow.com / January 26, 2015
Judging from the number of people who turned out for a meeting Saturday, the solar power movement in Halifax County is gaining energy.

About 50 people gathered at the STEM Center in Halifax to learn more about joining a local solar cooperative which is being formed by Oak Grove Plantation, the Town of Halifax and VA Sun.

In November, a similar meeting resulted in 30 people signing up to be members of the co-op.

By joining the co-op, participants can save up to 30 percent on the cost of a solar energy system, and they will have the support of the co-op throughout the purchasing and installation process.

Pickett Craddock of Oak Grove Plantation installed 16 solar panels at the 4,000-square foot Cluster Springs bed and breakfast home, built in the 1820s. She talked about her satisfaction with the system, noting that she has shaved 25 percent off her electric bill since installing the solar panels in 2013.

She noted the system requires no maintenance and she will receive a 30 percent federal tax credit for the system cost in 2015.

Aaron Sutch, director of the VA Sun Program, briefly reviewed the history of the non-profit citizens network, which is dedicated to spreading solar power in Virginia, a state widely regarded as lagging on renewable energy use. An advocacy group, Solar Rocks, ranked Virginia 41st on its 2015 scorecard of states’ solar power-friendliness.

VA Sun is now working with six solar co-ops throughout the state to change that, including in Halifax County. Several co-ops are in Northern Virginia, where the program started.

After people sign up to join the co-op, VA Sun will review their roof within a few days, Sutch noted. If the roof is suitable for solar panels, the member will be placed on a list to receive a site assessment and cost proposal from the installer. Members of the group said they expected to choose their installer on Sunday afternoon from among the five bids that had been received to carry out the local work.

Each co-op participant will sign an individual contract with the installer. People still have another month to sign up to participate in the co-op.

Sutch walked his listeners through the costs of the system, noting that an array of panels capable of producing three kilowatts will run about $12,000. With the co-op discount of 25 percent, that cost is reduced to $9,000. With the 30 percent federal tax credit — plus an estimated $400 annual savings on electric bills and another $90 in revenue from selling power back to the system — the initial first-year cost drops to $5,810, he said.

He pointed out that participants are making a long-term investment, with an expectation of recouping their money over a 9- to 12-year time frame. Solar systems are expected to have a 30-year life cycle.

Sutch reminded the audience that the co-op is also open to businesses and farms as well as residences.

For more information about the Halifax solar cooperative, visit the website, http://www.vasun.org.





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