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Thinking about going solar? Centre County co-op forms to shed light on the issue, bring people together for group purchase

A woman speaks at a podium with the sign "Go Solar" while two people watch, with solar panels in the background.
Anne Danahy/WPSU
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Betsy Whitman, a Patton Township supervisor and chair of the Centre Region Climate Action and Sustainability Committee in Centre County, speaks about a new solar energy cooperative on Sept. 9, 2021. Working with Solar United Neighbors, residents and businesses will be able to learn about and cooperatively purchase solar panel installations and EV chargers. The announcement took place in front of the UAJA solar panel installation.

With solar panels in the background, Betsy Whitman, chair of the Centre Region’s Climate Action and Sustainability Committee, said Thursday that local government guides development and provides services.

And, she said: “Once in a blue moon, local government can actually make a difference in, I’m going to call it 'our Earth.'”

Whitman and others representing municipalities and organizations in Centre County announced a partnership with Solar United Neighbors, a nonprofit that helps residents and businesses go solar. By forming a co-op that will research and get bids from companies that install solar panels, the goal will be to provide information and possibly save money on installation.

Doug Mason with the Sierra Club Moshannon Group, says the group will help get the word out to people who might be interested.

“July was just the hottest month ever recorded in Earth’s meteorological history, since we’ve been taking records anyway. I care about what’s going to happen to my grandchildren and my great-granddaughter, so to me it’s logical and the right thing to do," Mason said.

Solar United has completed about 300 solar co-ops across the county, including 13 in Pennsylvania in places like Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. Electric vehicle chargers can also be part of the projects.

Five people holding "Go Solar" signs stand on a field with solar panels in the background and a podium in front.
Anne Danahy/ WPSU
Henry McKay, with Solar United Neighbors in Pennsylvania, and others spoke at a news conference announcing the formation of a co-op to help homeowners and businesses in Centre County interested in having solar panels installed.

Henry McKay, Solar United’s Pennsylvania Program Director, said a rooftop solar installation can save homeowners money over time.

“It’s also one of the most powerful ways to take control of where your energy comes from and dramatically reduce your carbon footprint," he said.

McKay pointed to the project in Indiana County in Pennsylvania.

“Enthusiasm about solar and people interested in putting up solar is not limited to the big metro areas and traditionally progressive areas," he said. "People are interested in solar all over the state.”

The announcement took place with the area sewer authority’s solar installation as a backdrop. Cory Miller, executive director of the authority, said the solar panels on 22 acres of land take care of about 75% of their total energy.

“It is possible to do solar purely from an economical standpoint, but the environmental standpoint is very important as well," Miller said.

McKay said with the group bid, participants could see costs go down 10-15%. But, he noted, co-ops don't always pick the cheapest option, taking other factors into consideration as well.

The Centre County co-op is accepting members through the end of January 2022.

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