Augusta Solar Co-op leader Sandy Greene was kind enough to speak with us about her experience with the group and solar energy.
Why are you interested in solar? And how did you get involved in the solar co-op?
We dropped the ball in the 70’s by not insisting on solar power. As my husband and I now watch our grandchildren grow up, we are motivated to do all we can to catch up and create a more sustainable future for them. We put a 6.5 kW photovoltaic system on our barn roof in 2012.
What is your role as a community partner with the Augusta Solar Co-op?
I help spread the good cheer (and data) about solar power. I work to make potential members feel welcome and valuable to the co-op.
How have you gone about recruiting others to the co-op?
With Joy Loving of Solarize Harrisonburg, I have taken every opportunity to speak to or visit with civic organizations. Joy and I created a fun powerpoint presentation with references and photos from the Rural Electrification Project of the 30’s and lots of global examples of solar installations. One of our members made a gorgeous display, which has traveled to libraries, public spaces and meetings, and another member has written several newspaper articles. Members also created our logo, Facebook page and Twitter account.
We also hosted a solar home tour, enlisted some students from the local governor’s school to engage kids in a solar campground for Staunton’s Earth Day. We even dressed three young people up in Power Rangers outfits for the 4th of July parade in Staunton. VA SUN has been very helpful with press releases and communication, as well as Aaron’s friendly and warm presentations.
Which ways have been most successful?
I think just keeping the whole idea before the public, with photos and info session opportunities creates the buzz and makes people talk and think about solar for their own homes. The installers have been very helpful with the solar tour and attending info sessions, and spreading the word as well.
What are some common questions people ask you about solar?
Mostly “how much does it cost? We answer with a lot of comparisons and “Expensive compared to what?”
What are some of the challenges in recruiting people to join a solar co-op?
Gaining and keeping trust in the process. It helps that Solarize Harrisonburg was so successful in the adjacent county.
What do you like most about working to help Augusta County go solar?
Talking to people about going solar is a privilege in every way. I have even enjoyed finding places for our public meetings.
How has it been to work with VA SUN in the process?
Aaron has been wonderful – patient and dependable, friendly and knowledgeable. The listserv and blog have really helped me get educated on current practices and legal issues.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to start a co-op in their neighborhood or town?
I would say “How can you NOT do this, with the support and framework provided by VA SUN? It’s a real gift to your community!”