At nearly every meeting where two or more solar professionals gather, one can hear an achingly familiar refrain: “If 90% of Americans support solar, why can’t we ever get them behind us on the big policy fights we have?”
Well, at least one solar organization (formerly Community Power Network) and is recruiting an army of homeowners to defend solar policies on local, state and national levels.
Solar United Neighbors (SUN) is building a solar homeowner coalition across eight states and the District of Columbia to help people install solar while giving them an organization to fight anti-solar legislation and policy decisions around the country.
It currently operates in the states of Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia and has a list of nearly 30,000 committed solar homeowners already. As it expands to other states, it expects those numbers to continue to grow.
As the politics of solar get increasingly contentious and the industry seems under siege from all sides, whether it’s decisions to end net metering, impose demand charges or, at the national level, a a potentially devastating trade case, a motivated army could be the difference between wins and losses for the solar industry.
Understanding that people have more investment in a cause when there’s money involved, SUN has a paid-membership program. While members will still have the option of joining a co-op (in line with SUN’s long history of co-op development) for free, people can also choose to pay $85 to join as individuals. No matter which group they are part of, members get support as they move through the installation process as well as future support in monitoring, maintenance, performance and the latest technologies and incentives.
“We envision a clean, equitable energy system that directs control and benefits back to local communities, with solar on every roof and money in every pocket,” said Anya Schoolman, Solar United Neighbors’ executive director. “Changing our name to Solar United Neighbors reflects our desire to help more people go solar and build a nationwide force of solar supporters to fight for our energy rights.”
More than 2,300 homeowners have taken advantage of SUN’s programs to date.
Update: This article was edited on 10/5/17 at 1:24 pm to clarify that the co-ops remain free to join and that the $85 membership fee applies to people who want to join as individuals.