By Joshua Blanco
Solarizing a home in Buncombe County has never been easier thanks to a new campaign spearheaded by the Blue Horizons Project, a Green Built Alliance program focused on clean energy. Beginning Thursday, April 1, the organization will launch Solarize Asheville-Buncombe, an initiative that will provide homeowners, businesses and nonprofits with solar energy through a bulk-purchasing program.
Considering the community-wide goal to get the county running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2042, the timing couldn’t be better. According to Sophie Mullinax, Blue Horizons project manager, transitioning to solar power is an important step in the right direction. “The Solarize campaign is definitely a piece of that puzzle,” she says. “The group purchase aspect will get more solar on more roofs.”
Because the initiative is based on bulk purchasing, more people signing up leads to lower costs for installation. The goal is to bring as many people on board as possible so that residents and businesses who normally wouldn’t be able to afford it can make use of the technology.
“Going solar can also reduce energy and economic burdens for low- and moderate-income (LMI) community members, of which communities of color make up a disproportionate share,” says Ken Haldin, development partner at Solar CrowdSource, the Georgia-based company administering the campaign.
Aside from a lower electricity bill and ongoing adoption of renewable energy, the campaign also seeks to create pathways to green jobs for local residents through a workforce-development program. LMIs in particular can benefit from even deeper cost reductions through financing and fundraising options.
In 2013, the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute’s Solarize Asheville campaign was able to generate 52 contracts. Due to the success of the past initiative, environmental groups have not wasted any time jumping on board. By establishing a local public-private coalition, Blue Horizons Project has won the support of a number of local organizations ranging from the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to groups like Mountain True, Sierra Club and Hood Huggers International.
Now that the coalition is finished taking bids for contractors to handle the installations, they are inviting people to receive a quote on an installation. The deadline to sign up is July 30.
The maximum number of people allowed to register will ultimately be decided by the contractor; however, the goal is to recruit at least 100 participants. Mullinax says past campaigns to solarize have seen only a sprinkling of businesses sign up, so they expect residences to make up the bulk of solar installments. So far, more than 50 people have signed up for a free assessment. “Of course, not every one of those will lead to an installation,” Mullinax says, “but it’s definitely the most interest we’ve seen this early in a campaign.”