Thanks to improvements in solar technology, significant reductions in cost and incentive programs, going solar is a feasible goal for many communities. Convincing your community that it’s a good idea can be a challenge in itself, though. Here are a few tips to help you get your neighbors and local businesses on board.
Scale Community Solar with Institutional Buyers
Solar energy could take on many different forms in your community. Individuals can place solar panels on their rooftops to power their homes. Community solar projects involve installing a group of solar panels that generate electricity for people in the area to use. If your utility offers solar, you may even be able to easily switch without installing anything.
Larger establishments such as businesses, schools, offices and government buildings consume a lot of energy and are often leaders of the community. That’s why it’s especially important to convince them to switch. If these organizations produce more energy than they need, they could even sell some of it back to the grid for consumers to use.
Form a Coalition
Convincing your community to go solar is a big undertaking, so forming a team of people to help you will go a long way. Seek out groups that may be interested, such as environmental advocates, energy industry workers or technology enthusiasts. Create your own organization or form a committee within an already-established group.
After you’ve begun building your team, hold meetings to develop plans. Do your best to make appearances at local events, contact the local paper about what you’re doing, and place flyers around town in order to spread awareness and attract more participants.
Your organization doesn’t have to be super formal. Just create something that will enable you to build some momentum behind your call for the community to go solar.
Focus on the Benefits
When people talk about climate change, they often focus on doom-and-gloom scenarios about the damage it could cause. While this approach has its advantages, you might want to focus more on the benefits of going solar — such as savings on energy bills and energy security — especially if people in your community aren’t completely convinced about climate change.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t mention solar’s environmental attributes. People usually want to take care of the planet whether they believe a scientific consensus or not.
You could also emphasize the financial benefits of going solar, especially when working with businesses. Although installing solar panels has some upfront costs, generating your own power will save you money on your electricity bills for the entire life of the system. They usually last for around 25 years.
A 3-kilowatt (kW) solar system will generate 450 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. Since the average U.S. household uses about 900 kWh of electricity per month, solar can cut electricity bills by around half. Taking advantage of federal and state government tax incentives can save even more.
Going solar can also help businesses make more money, because people will see them as environmentally responsible and have a higher opinion of them. Environmentally conscious shoppers will be more likely to patronize a green business and even be willing to spend more money. In fact, a recent study found that almost two-thirds of consumers said they would spend extra for products and services from green companies.
You can help encourage businesses to go solar by choosing to patronize greener businesses more often than those that aren’t focused on sustainability. Rewarding businesses for things like going solar will encourage other establishments to follow suit in order to grow their customer base. Get other people to do this as well, and you have a pretty powerful movement.
Today, going solar is easier and more beneficial than ever. Convincing your community to go solar can be difficult, but if you show people and businesses the benefits it provides, you may find you have a community full of enthusiastic participants.
Photo by Karsten Wurth
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