Indianapolis hosts first-ever Indiana Solar Congress

By Lisa Rimmert on December 18, 2019

More than 100 solar supporters gathered in Indianapolis earlier this month. They came from all across Indiana for the inaugural Indiana Solar Congress.

Free and open to the public, the one-day conference attracted a range of attendees. Many were curious about going solar. Others were dedicated solar rights advocates. Many more fell somewhere in the middle.

The conference began with an exciting announcement.

Attendees heard from Katie Robinson, Director of the Office of Sustainability – City of Indianapolis. She announced a new partnership between the city and Solar United Neighbors. We are working together to install solar panels on the homes of up to 20 low- and middle-income residents in 2020. Homeowners will receive the system free of charge.

This pilot program aims to expand access to solar energy. It is especially aimed at helping financially burdened residents. The program is part of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge and the city’s Thrive Indianapolis plan. It includes many objectives. One is increasing the city’s energy use from renewable sources to 20% by 2025.

Congress attendees then enjoyed a variety of presentations about solar. The day’s agenda was packed! Session topics included solar technology and advocating for solar energy in Indiana.

Zach Schalk, Indiana Program Director for Solar United Neighbors, led a session called Solar 101. This session covered the basics of solar. Attendees learned about the benefits of going solar. They also received information about installing panels on their homes and businesses.

Attendees also heard from Denise Abdul-Rahman of the NAACP. She presented along with Asli Mwaafrika and Aghilah Nadaraj from the Kheprw Institute. They discussed what it will take for our 21st century energy system to be clean and equitable.

Attendees then took a sustainability tour of the Englewood Christian Church. They saw first-hand how installing solar and making other improvements benefited the congregation.

The afternoon was packed with concurrent sessions. First was an eye-opening exploration of how Indiana’s electric utilities stacked the deck against rooftop solar. Attendees learned where Hoosiers can go from here to fight for their solar rights. Kerwin Olson, Executive Director of Citizens Action Coalition led this session.

Meanwhile, several Indiana solar homeowners shared what it’s like to have gone solar. The panel discussed some of the challenges, their advice to others. They also described and the many benefits they’ve seen, including low energy bills. Many thanks to panelists Pete Lenzen, Andy Arenson, Shelly Brown, and Tim Moore!

Next, attendees chose between two sessions. One session covered battery storage technology. The other covered how to take your local school or church solar. Ray Wilson of Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light moderated this session. Panelists included Joe Bowling of Englewood CDC, Bob Heimach of Irvington Presbyterian Church, Michael Wigginton of Shalom Mennonite, and Dr. Saiyid Shah of the Islamic Center of Evansville.

The day ended with a training session lead by Solar United Neighbors on how to fight for their solar rights. Solar supporters will be able to use their new skills right away—at the 2020 Renewable Energy Day on January 7. Sign up here to join us!

Upland Brewery hosted a post-Congress happy hour. This gave Congress attendees a chance to keep the conversation about solar going.

Here are some ways you can keep the momentum going to advance solar in Indiana: