Energy Foundation made its first grant to Solar United Neighbors in 2015.
Homeowners and small businesses across the country are teaming up to go solar, join together, and exercise and defend their energy rights. Solar United Neighbors is the only national membership organization dedicated to representing the needs and interests of solar owners, and in the process bringing together people from all walks of life to make it easier to buy, install, and benefit from solar power.
People are drawn to rooftop solar for different reasons. Solar empowers them to save money, be energy independent, and use a clean power source. Yet, many are daunted by the process of selecting and installing a solar power system. Solar United Neighbors helps communities navigate the process by providing tools and technical assistance. As of July 2018, Solar United Neighbors had helped more than 3,200 homes go solar in Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, DC, and West Virginia.
Assisting people to go solar also helps build a community of solar supporters. Key to this effort are state-level Solar Congresses—free public conferences that teach attendees about emerging trends in rooftop solar and other distributed energy technologies. They connect like-minded enthusiasts and provide a collaborative space for community members to define their priorities. Through these events, diverse groups of people from rural, suburban, and urban neighborhoods and across the political spectrum unite around a common interest: solar energy. They are then able to organize their voices to influence policy.
“Consumers have a powerful voice, because consumers talk about pocket-book issues that matter to policymakers,” said Curtis Seymour, Energy Foundation’s Senior Policy Director, States and Regions. “Solar United Neighbors is demonstrating that solar consumers are a diverse constituency from various economic, political, and cultural backgrounds, and they are helping mobilize them as advocates, which will have a profound impact on clean energy policy progress.”
Solar United Neighbors is expanding its reach through community-based partnerships. For example, Worthington Girl Scout Troop 1618 member Olivia Engel knocked on 600 doors and invited her Ohio neighbors to a meeting on how and why to go solar, ultimately organizing a solar buying co-op. Solar United Neighbors has now developed the SUN patch program for Girl Scouts of all ages to discover the power of solar energy. Nearly 200 scouts in councils from Hawaii to West Virginia have earned patches in the partnership with Solar United Neighbors.
Bringing people together to work on tangible solutions with clear local benefits can be a catalyst for connecting those who may have broader demographic and philosophical differences. Solar United Neighbors is helping people to understand why and how to go solar, as well as how to be effective in engaging their elected officials.