Solar co-op launched in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A co-op was launched in Charleston Monday in hopes of uniting residents to form a group supporting solar energy in the area.

West Virginia Solar United Neighborhoods, or WV SUN, held the interest meeting at the Charleston Area Alliance building in hope of getting people interested in forming a solar co-op. Around 20 people attended the meeting, including individuals who have already installed solar panels on their homes.

WV SUN is part of the Community Power Network, a network of organizations nationwide who advocate for solar power. This would be the 14th solar panel network in West Virginia, which has networks in Huntington, the Ohio Valley and the Eastern Panhandle.

Autumn Long, WV SUN solar co-op coordinator, installed panels at her Harrison County home more than two years ago, a decision she said she always wanted to make.

“I’m really passionate about renewable energy and the benefits it can bring people in West Virginia,” she said.

Long said solar panels are an investment that can pay for itself from 10 to 12 years after installation.

“It will save you an average of $30,000 in electricity bills over the course of the life of your solar system,” she said.

Long said with the most common system, created power will be fed into the local electricity network, which can then go into other homes.

“Net metering,” as she called it, allows neighbors to even use energy collected by solar panels at one home.

“Some people want to go solar because they’re worried about their carbon footprint or they want to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels,” she said. “Other people want to go solar to have more control over where their energy comes from.”

According to Long, it is a two-month process to have solar panels installed, inspected and connected to the overall community system. In a co-op, the process could take between six and eight months, as the group will seek to increase membership and sign a contract with an installer.