The word about solar is spreading across Florida, and across the country. Now it’s going international. Solar United Neighbors recently met with a delegation of emerging leaders in the power sector for the Republic of Iraq. Global Jax, an organization that works in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State on projects that focus on public diplomacy and international development, invited us to meet with them. The delegation was particularly interested in energy policy and our work with individual homeowners through our solar co-op program.
Five emerging leaders from Iraq were in attendance, accompanied by Global Jax staff and an interpreter. Solar United Neighbors was represented by Angela DeMonbreun, Florida program director. Additionally, our local partner organization, Compassionate St. Augustine and St. Johns County Co-op participants, Warren Clark and Nancy O’Byrne, were on hand to not only share their experience as actual solar homeowners but the rich diverse history of St. Augustine as well.
“It was a very rich experience sharing and brainstorming with the utility managers and engineers from Iraq about solar co-ops,” O’Byrne said.
The delegation had already traveled around the country learning about various power generation technologies used in the U.S. They were exposed to multiple forms of the most cutting edge power generation, distribution, and storage technology. They also reviewed the regulatory and policy making process on the state and national level.
However, they had not been exposed to a lot of information on solar.
They were interested to learn how solar co-ops fit into the conventional grid system and how Solar United Neighbors ensures potential solar co-op participants understand how solar works, how it can be financed, and how it can be installed on their homes.
We were able to expound on solar’s technology and growing financing availability, as well as our process of increasing solar adoption one rooftop at a time through community-driven decision making. This was a novel concept for the group to take back to Iraq; a country that is struggling to meet energy demand around their nation, particularly in rural areas.
“Over the hour and a half we could really see their humanity, and desire to upgrade their systems to get power to all the people,” Clark said. “They were especially looking for ways to get solar to remote and very poor persons. They would need subsidies from their petroleum sales to do that.”
After a few cups of coffee and tons of ideas on how Iraq can embrace solar energy, we all departed feeling energetic and motivated about expanding solar, only in this case, spreading solar from St. Augustine to Basra!