This week, Community Power Network (CPN), a driver of locally-based renewable energy projects and policy, issued five separate requests for proposals from solar installers on behalf of solar co-ops. The RFPs cover co-ops in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia respectively. The solar co-ops help groups of neighbors leverage their collective buying power to go solar together and get a discount off the installation price. CPN provides technical assistance to the groups as well; educating members on solar and helping them select the appropriate system for their home.
“The continued growth of these groups demonstrates that the co-op model is a path to grow local solar markets,” said Anya Schoolman, CPN Executive Director. “The co-ops have expanded the pool of solar customers. I know from experience, the decision to go solar can involve a good deal of work. Having the support of a group of like-minded folks simplifies the process.”
CPN manages solar co-ops through its respective state affiliates: DC SUN, MD SUN, VA SUN, and WV SUN. Each state affiliate works closely with the co-ops to provide support that helps the co-op select one or more installer from the pool of bids. Typically, co-ops receive bids from 3-8 companies.
Since 2013, CPN has helped 545 homes go solar through 22 different co-ops. The total output of the systems accounts for more than 3 MW of solar energy and more than $9 million in retail sales.
Solar co-ops present a strong value proposition to solar installers and members alike. The co-ops lower installers’ cost of customer acquisition by giving them access to an engaged pool of potential customers. The group dynamic allows installers to purchase larger quantities of panels and other components from distributors.
The co-ops are designed within limited geographic boundaries. This limits installation team travel time as well as the number of trips installers have to make to permitting offices. Co-op members typically see a 20% discount by going solar with the co-op compared to the cost of an individual installation.
Installers interested in submitting an RFP can find them here: