Nancy Franklin is a super volunteer and member of our Solar United Neighbors of Maryland Advisory Board. Read her own words about why she enjoys advocating for her solar rights—and why you should too!
Solar was the bane of my existence growing up in New Jersey. It was the 1970’s and my father was very forward thinking, so he researched and experimented with all kinds of renewables—wind, solar, methane. The problem was that his interest and excitement far exceeded his execution, and he wasn’t very good at getting any of it to the working state. We built windmills, solar collectors, and even convinced the state to tear down the back of our house and install a two-story greenhouse…on the north side. We ended up having to cut down trees to heat the greenhouse. So, as you might imagine, I was not an early fan of “renewables.”
As an adult, however, I was motived to change my tune on renewable energy by the realities of climate change. My first step was to find out all I could about solar. I went to trade shows, read books and articles, and learned a lot. I captured much of my research and built a how-to guide of questions and spreadsheets that I shared with family, friends and neighbors. We went solar on our own in 2010—the first in our development, and according to the PSC, the first residential system owner to self-report production in the Generation Attribute Tracking System (GATS) platform used to create solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs). We have a 10kW system consisting of 56 panels. At the time we did the install, that was the maximum limit for a residential system. We immediately realized the benefits—3 to 5 months of the year we produced more electricity than we used, and our electric bills for the heavy use months of summer fell to less than half.
I was a convert (disciple?), but my sphere of influence was relatively small. When MD SUN (as they were known then) came to Bowie and introduced the solar co-op concept to help homeowners go solar, they provided the groundswell I could never attain on my own. I went to the first community meeting to share my experience and insights, and found an eager audience wanting to learn more. I was passionate and informed, and that eventually led to being asked to help become an ambassador of sorts—I would answer questions and share my experience at MD SUN events.
When I discovered they were a designated Combined Federal Campaign charity, I migrated my enthusiasm to supporting them to the extent I could at work. I posted little placards at my desk saying that I supported the cause (about the limit you can do as a federal employee), but the signs have remained well after the campaign ended. It’s generated a lot of conversations and people know me as the one to talk solar to. It’s exciting, and each new person that comes to me with questions leaves with a greater appreciation for the benefits of solar, and some tools to begin their own exploration.
Because of the initial interactions, I’ve grown my involvement and influence in so many ways. I’ve been part of the Selection Committee for our city’s solar co-op, learning a lot about the mechanics of the proposal, bid, and selection process—as well as how to duly consider the needs of a large and diverse group of people with a broad array of needs. I’ve become a member of the Maryland Advisory Board, where I help inform and shape the focus of future efforts. I’ve also participated in two state-wide Solar Congress events that bring together all aspects of the solar sphere—users, providers, lawmakers, advocates, and activists.
After gaining confidence on the policy issues that are so important to our growing solar movement, I became involved in two of the Public Service Commission’s PC44 working groups defining the future of energy in the state. I have also rallied at the State House in Annapolis and met with individual senators and delegates to defend the need for increasing solar-related jobs, and to advocate for legislation that will hopefully raise our renewable portfolio standard and generate better returns on our investment in solar.
I enjoy being a part of what I call the ‘activist’ side of solar. I absolutely love sharing with others what I’ve learned. It’s energizing to speak with people who want to learn a little—or a lot—about solar. I’m proud to be a part of Maryland’s growing solar movement!