The Frederick County Solar Co-op has selected Sustainable Energy Systems to install solar panels for the growing sixty-one-member group. The Co-op’s Selection Committee selected Sustainable Energy Systems through a competitive bidding that included proposals from eleven firms. The co-op is open to new residential and small business members until February 28, 2017, and the group will hold its final public information session on January 18, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. at the C. Burr Artz Library to educate the community about solar and the co-op process. By forming a group of interested buyers and selecting a single solar install that best meets the interest of the group, co-op members can receive lower prices as a result of economies of scale and reduced labor costs for business development and marketing.
“Sustainable Energy Systems offered the lowest price, met all the experience and capacity criteria, and had all the options co-op members expressed interest in, such as power purchase agreements, loan options, and battery back-up systems,” said Bonnie Griesemer, a Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member, who is helping to coordinate the co-op. “Plus, the Selection Committee liked the idea that we’d be using an installer right here in Frederick.”
“We at Sustainable Energy Systems are appreciative of the opportunity to continue our mission of providing affordable solar to homeowners,” stated Ryan Nicholson, sales manager at Sustainable Energy Systems. “We are even more excited for this opportunity because it is happening in our hometown of Frederick!”
Understanding all of the details of solar and solar financing can be confusing, but co-op members have the support of the group throughout the installation process. This allows members of the co-op to get their questions answered and feel confident that they’re getting a quality solar system. “I am excited to work with Sustainable Energy Systems and see how much I can save with my system,” said Jessica Arbuthnot, a member of the co-op. “I appreciate having the support of a group as I go through this process.”
MD SUN serves as the co-op’s consumer advocate. It educates residents about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helps them organize group installations, and helps strengthen Maryland’s solar policies and its community of solar supporters. Through its parent organization, Community Power Network, MD SUN has helped facilitate the creation of solar co-ops throughout the District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase or lease panels. The installer, Sustainable Energy Systems, will develop personalized proposals, including financing options, for each co-op member based on installation size. At that point, co-op members will be able to decide individually if going solar is right for them.
Similar co-ops in other Maryland counties have shown that residents saved up to 20 percent on solar installation through the program. Frederick County has seen success in similar programs, such as the Solarize Frederick Initiative, where sixty-six homeowners installed solar electric systems. Solarize participant Russ Poole of Thurmont was happy to see a new program being offered by the county, sharing his experience: “We originally investigated and decided on a solar PV system for two reasons: environmental and economical. Thurmont Municipal Power & Light allows excess production to be ‘banked’ for use in times of lower production. With the ‘banked’ electricity and the increased efficiency of our recent additions of insulation and geothermal, we are nearly ‘net zero’ in energy use and have significantly lowered our carbon footprint. The Solarize Committee vetted the installers for the Solarize Frederick County program so it was a no-brainer. The additional perks of lowered costs through bulk buying was icing on the cake.”
Local residents interested in learning more about home renewable energy can attend a workshop hosted by the Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources at the Thurmont Regional Library on February 2, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. To register, contact Sustainability Program Coordinator Lisa Orr at Lorr@FrederickCountyMD.gov.
Frederick County residents, small businesses, and organizations such as churches can learn more about the co-op, register for, or watch a video of an information session, and join the co-op by visiting mdsun.org/frederick. Questions about the program can be directed to OSER’s Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member Bonnie Griesemer at BGriesemer@FrederickCountyMD.gov.
The Frederick County Solar Co-op is a special initiative under the Frederick County Green Homes Renewable Star Challenge. The Green Homes Challenge helps households reduce energy use and utility bills, adopt environmentally friendly practices, and use renewable energy. Interested readers can explore the Challenge at FrederickGreenChallenge.org.