Building a co-op and going solar: Volunteer Spotlight on Alice Newlon

Alice Newlon is many things: friendly, outdoorsy, driven, community-minded and an advo

Alice Newlon speaks with a reporter at the Manatee Solar Co-op launch.

cate. Alice put these traits to good use as the lead organizer of the Manatee County Solar Co-op. Like many lead co-op organizers, is the chair of the Natural Resources committee of her local League of Women Voters chapter, the Manatee County League of Women Voters. She dove into the role after learning about solar co-ops in nearby communities and built an army of volunteers to make the co-op successful.

Newlon began by recruiting a group of more than 20 to attend a kick-off volunteer meeting. She kept this group engaged and active by employing conference calls, email lists, and engagement activities to keep the group connected. Most importantly, she said, was to keep it fun. For example, her volunteer team would come together and visit a local brewery.

Building the co-op helped Alice go solar as well. “I was never confident enough to get bids to go solar by myself,” Newlon said. It seemed daunting to know what questions to ask and how to evaluate the products and installers.”

Before going solar, Newlon would need to replace her roof, adding another complication to going solar.

“During the selection of an installer meeting, I realized that, not only was this a fantastic price and product that I could not negotiate on my own,” Newlon said. “But, that the information gathered and checked by Solar United Neighbors and the knowledge contained in the selection committee was such that I was confident the choice was the right one.”

Alice did re-roof and recently had her system installed. Now, she is sharing her experience with and uplifting those in nearby counties. The support and encouragement that Alice spreads is what makes our volunteers such an invaluable piece of the solar co-op process. As Alice would say, “keep shining”.

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