I thought it would be a good idea to help start reducing our carbon footprint
Michael – Virginia, MN
Iron Range 2018 Solar Co-op
System size: 6.5 kW
Michael’s Solar Story:
Virginia homeowner Michael Grahek’s solar installation draws attention.
“I’ve had people stop by and chat with me about the panels. I’ve had others just stop by and look. I live on a corner, so I can see when people come and stop and they’re looking at the panels.”
Grahek said he first got interested in solar several years ago. He was at an Earth Day event. There was a display about solar energy. “I thought jeez, that’s pretty interesting,” Grahek said. “I thought it would be a good idea to help start reducing our carbon footprint.”
Several years and one move later, Grahek was ready to go solar.
“I came into some extra cash,” Grahek said. “I thought: I could sock the money away at one tenth of one percent from the bank. Or, I could put it to work. I decided to put it to work.”
A friend told him about a group of neighbors in his community who were working with a nonprofit organization, Solar United Neighbors (SUN), to go solar. Grahek joined the group.
Solar United Neighbors supports people like Grahek who are interested in installing solar on their homes. It works in communities through a program called a “solar co-op”. The solar co-op brings together community members in a bulk purchase. The co-op is free to join. Joining isn’t a commitment to purchase panels.
Solar United Neighbors works with co-op members to educate them about solar technology and the process to get it installed on their homes. It has supported solar co-ops across Minnesota and across the country. Along the way it has helped more than 100 Minnesota families go solar.
Once the group is large enough, SUN submits a request for proposals from local installers. A selection committee, made up of co-op members, reviews each bid. They choose one company to serve the co-op. The chosen installer then develops personalized proposals for each co-op member. Members decide individually if going solar is right for them.
Grahek opted to go solar. He has a 19-panel system that was installed in October of 2019. He said it saves him about $100 a month off his monthly utility bill. “My home is all electric,” Grahek said. “So when winter comes, my electric bill can get high really quick.”
“Once we got the approval [to install the system], the installers came and put it all up in one day,” Grahek said. “They had to come back to put in a new meter another day, but that was the installation process.”
Grahek’s roof has a low pitch. While this made the installation easier, because installers didn’t have to navigate a slanted roof, it does mean his panels are producing less than they would if they were at a steeper angle.
“I’m happy with my solar system,” Grahek said. “I’ve even thought about expanding it.”