York River Group of Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club

Solar Power for Schools and Non-Profits

Image of solar panels

With a wide array of local politicians, office-seekers, city planners, environmental advocates, and concerned citizens in attendance, the Sierra Club York river Group held an informative program on how to bring solar to Schools and Non-Profits on April 17, 2019. Two knowledgeable speakers educated the crowd.

John Luker, Chair of the Sierra Club Chesapeake Bay Group, talked about how the cost of solar has been in steep decline, and how cost-effective its installation can be. This is especially true for places like schools, churches, other non-profits, and businesses. The fossil fuel industries in the U.S. are feeling increasingly threatened by solar power, and the potential loss of profits that it means for them. They are always working to pass laws that help keep solar from becoming more widely used and coal plants on life support. Mr. Luker’s group’s website, https://www.sierraclub.org/virginia/chesapeake-bay, provides a wealth of information about clean energy, including details on how to pay for solar installations.

Ruth McElroy Amudsen, the lead for Norfolk Solar Qualified Opportunity Zone Fund, described the process that she and other parents used to help install solar power at Norfolk Academy. See, for example, the website https://www.norfolksolar.org. Ultimately, the installation costs at Norfolk Academy will be recovered in only about 7 years, after which the school will have essentially free energy for another 30 – 40 years!

Ms. Amudsen talked about modern solar’s low maintenance costs, ease of installation, and longevity. In fact, the solar panels themselves actually help to extend the life of an existing roof, by protecting it from UV damage and keeping it cooler. She also described tax credits, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), Qualified Opportunity Zones, the C-Pace Program, and many other useful bits of information relating to the installation of solar.

Why aren’t more cities, schools, businesses, and non-profits in Virginia going solar already? Part of the reason is Dominion Energy’s stranglehold monopoly on energy supply in Virginia, combined with their influence on state legislators who pass laws that discourage its use. The citizens of Virginia need to become better educated on the benefits of solar. Not only does it save money, it also helps protect the environment by decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Some cities in Virginia (like Arlington and Blacksburg) are including solar in their forward-looking plans for a clean energy future. Why not here in Hampton Roads? Citizens should pressure their city and state representatives to help make solar more accessible at the state and local levels. A good start would be to pass legislation like the Solar Freedom Bill (which failed in Virginia’s state legislature last time around).

“Financing Solar 101” is described on the website http://solar.the-mcelroys.com/index.html. This site includes forms, presentations, and links to other useful sites.


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