How the Emergence of Solar Boosters Pool Money

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A clean energy entrepreneur from the Shenandoah Valley is on the brink of replicating his solar “barn raising” prototype in communities across Virginia.

Jeff Heie’s optimism was bolstered by a sense of achievement in his own backyard. The confidence led him to welcome Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the state to join an initiative started last spring by his Give Solar programme with Central Valley Habitat.

Heie stated of the response to his overture to 40 Habitat executive directors, “I would have been thrilled to have five affiliates interested.”

Give Solar has been functioning in Harrisonburg for the past five years. Heie’s group didn’t collaborate with Central Valley until October 2020 to co-craft a model system that allows people to save money on their electricity bills by installing solar panels in their energy-efficient houses.

Suddarth and his wife, Sigrid, are so passionate about connecting Habitat homeowners to solar that they have promised to finance the first two rooftop installations in their region.

By February 2020, the two solar experts were searching out Habitat homes in Hanover and King William counties. COVID-19, on the other hand, drastically reduced the amount of legwork required.

The blueprint has now been resurrected. Suddharth is now confident that a Habitat home in his affiliate’s territory will be installed with a solar array by March or April. His coworkers intend to pursue the same model that Heie has devised in collaboration with Central Valley.

The initial Habitat recipients can act as representatives, proving to future consumers that the technology is trustworthy and cost-effective.

Fundraising Surpasses Expectations

Even before Give Solar became an official offshoot of the New Community Project in 2018, Heie started organizing what he termed “solar barn raisings.” The multi-faceted nonprofit is situated in Harrisonburg, the county seat of Rockingham.

Give Solar specializes in assisting nonprofit organizations in making the shift to clean energy. Recruiting volunteers to work alongside specialists improves camaraderie while also minimizing installation costs.

Heie coordinated the first project with the Central Valley affiliate in Broadway In mid-March.

A crew mounted 24 panels capable of acquiring 8 kilowatts of solar power on part of the asphalt roof of a new airtight, all-electric duplex. The two-family house was constructed with plenty of open southern exposure in mind. In addition, an overhang underneath the roof conceals the four windows below it from the summer sun.

Heie and his coworkers projected that each 12-panel system would initially save the two Habitat recipients $40 each month. He is pleased to announce that his electric bills decreased by $54.50 each month from May to November.

When temperatures drop and daylight decreases during the winter, he expects savings to be less significant.

During a barn raising near Harrisonburg in June, crews finished the second installation. Heie and Central Valley Habitat established a Solar Seed Fund to cover the $5,000 upfront expenditures of each 4-kilowatt installation. Their goal was to collect $100,000 in order to install 20 systems through 2026.

Heie is now focused on raising funds for Give Solar’s Habitat for Humanity Virginia project, which has solid local funding. His prime target for the two-year project is to install solar systems in at least five Habitat affiliates across the state.