The (solar) power of the people


Today, Vote Solar and Solar United Neighbors announced the launch of the “I ❤️ My Solar” postcard campaign. The campaign is hosted through a website which allows solar owners/supporters/general sun aficionados to create postcards of either their or some generic rooftop solar installations, as well as a short message on the front and a more detailed, personal, message on the back of the card. The card can then be mailed to the user’s state legislators, governor, and members of Congress.

The campaign was prompted by United States reaching more than two million solar installations across the country, with millions more who support the cause without having an installation of their own. The idea is to get the existing base of solar installers and supporters involved in political engagement, and to reflect to politicians the support that solar has.

With the upcoming 18-month drudge of a presidential election looming, the timing is advantageous for these two organizations to plant the seeds of political action early, before the populous is burnt out on politics.

What’s most interesting about the campaign is that it’s pretty much strictly focused on distributed generation and rooftop solar. It has nothing to do with a carbon tax, increased RPS demands, renewables as a whole or the big one, climate change. While that may seem odd at first, it’s a calculated tactical advantage.

Let’s start with a pretty obvious statement: it’s pretty hard to find a topic that two million people agree upon. Right off the bat, Solar United Neighbors and Vote Solar have that. It’s not Democrat or Republican, Independent nor Green Party, it’s two million people who love and support distributed solar. Add any other caveat – climate change action, a carbon tax, etc. – and you’re just subtracting people who were already on your side.

But how much does all of this matter? It’s two million people, but that’s still less than 1% of the U.S. population. What can less than 10 million people do? Well, to answer that, let’s look at an advocacy group that has proven political swing.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), on the organization’s “About” page, publicly boasts “nearly five million members,” which is actually down from their previous allegation of over five million members. The special interest group has been long recognized as one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country, even though it doesn’t crack the top-50 in terms of spending by lobbying groups.

Instead, the power of the NRA lies in the organization’s ability to mobilize its members, members who are, to say the least, experienced in grassroots campaigning. The group is known for tying hands politically by threatening to denounce legislation that it deems outside of or detrimental to its mission. The group’s sway has extended all the way up to mucking efforts made by the Bureau on Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

As noted by Dave Rosenfeld, the executive director of The Solar Rights Alliance, the solar industry may well have a thing or two to learn from the NRA. Consider that distributed solar has only become a widespread reality in the last decade or so, and already two million solar installations are being celebrated. For context, the NRA has existed since 1871. With the natural growth of the industry as time marches on, it’s realistic to believe that grassroots movements like the “I ❤️ My Solar” postcard campaign are a sign of things to come as the solar consumer flexes its political muscles.

This is just the beginning.

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