A student-run organization and a local non-profit are collaborating to install solar panels on homes throughout Ward 2, which includes the Georgetown neighborhood.
The Feb. 2 meeting of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission featured the proposal from Georgetown Energy, an independent student-run organization that promotes solar energy and sustainability, and D.C. Solar United Neighborhoods, a non-profit volunteer organization focused on helping neighborhoods set up solar co-ops.
The project includes bulk purchases of solar panels, which aim to decrease costs of installing renewable energy. Bulk purchases involve entire neighborhoods signing up to start a solar co-op, which usually requires a minimum of 20 households, and have reached up to hundreds of homes in one co-op.
On average, D.C. SUN looks at bids ranging from 40 to 50 households, allowing D.C. SUN to request competitive rates from solar panel providers and installers. D.C. SUN Representative Grant Klein estimated that co-ops save homeowners 20 to 30 percent of the market price for solar panels. After the initial costs of purchase and installation, solar panels will provide energy that can power the entire house.
While D.C. SUN provides expertise and connections in regards to the solar co-op project, Georgetown Energy has helped the organization by organizing meetings and outreach.
At the ANC meeting, student representatives introduced the program, discussed possible opportunities for residents and provided them with more detailed information regarding bulk purchases and going solar.
Additionally, Georgetown Energy promoted the project by canvassing and researching area newsletters and homeowner listservs.
Klein said the collaboration with Georgetown Energy has been helpful both with outreach and permitting issues.
“Georgetown Energy has been helpful getting the word out,” Klein said. “It’s great that Georgetown Energy, through the alumni of Georgetown Energy, has experience with solar installation specifically in the Georgetown neighborhood.”
Patrick MacDonald (SFS ’17), a Georgetown Energy member who is heading this project, also spoke to benefits of the partnership, noting that it was centered around the Georgetown community.
“It’s about just engaging as much of the community as possible,” MacDonald said. “Just as many people interested and thinking about renewable energy in the Georgetown community and Ward 2 in general as possible.”
Although discussions at the ANC meeting applied solely to Ward 2, the co-op will be open to any D.C. homeowner who would like to participate in the project, an unusually far reach for D.C. SUN.
“We’ve actually had so much interest from those outside of Ward 2 throughout D.C. that this co-op will be open to anybody in D.C., which is a departure from what we have done in the past,” Klein said.
Klein added that even with the larger radius of this project, the number of participants will not affect the relative price of the project.
“D.C. is a small enough geographic area that the prices local contractors offer haven’t changed over time if there are people from outside of that specific neighborhood, and so we think it’s alright if those outside of Ward 2 or even Georgetown join the group,” Klein said.
If approved, the project should be completed in the next six months.
ANC Commissioner Reed Howard (SFS ’17), who represents District 8, said he felt that this proposal could bring the university community and the Georgetown neighborhood closer together.
“I am pleased that Georgetown students feel comfortable attending ANC meetings to share their work and interests with the neighbors,” Howard said. “I think [MacDonald’s] and GU Energy’s proposal is a great way to further enhance relationships while working towards an issue we can all agree upon.”
Don Soffer (COL ’18), who attended the ANC meeting, added that he was pleased to see Georgetown Energy’s input.
“Georgetown Energy’s proposal for 2E seemed to me to be in the best interest of the community. It was refreshing to see college students our age making their voices heard in a public setting,” Soffer said.
Klein said a more detailed meeting for interested participants is being held Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Georgetown Neighborhood Public Library.
“The meeting will be educating homeowners about solar panels and systems, educating them about how a solar cooperative works in the neighborhood and inviting them to join the Ward 2 Georgetown neighborhood solar co-op,” Klein said.
MacDonald added that the co-sponsored event should help to engage community members and determine public interest in the project.
“That will be a real chance for us to connect with community members and, you know, see what sort of questions and concerns they have and sort of gauge the interest level of the community,” MacDonald said.