Solar Co-op Launches in Dallas

A nonprofit that helps homeowners convert to solar power is setting up shop in Dallas.EXPAND
A nonprofit that helps homeowners convert to solar power is setting up shop in Dallas.
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A nonprofit dedicated to helping homeowners convert to solar electricity launched a Dallas operation this week.

The organization, called Solar United Neighbors, runs neighborhood co-op efforts in 12 states across the country and offers support to people installing solar panels on their homes. Banding together into co-ops allows people to share resources and information and to get a bulk discounted rate on the costs of solar panels.

“It is always cost- and commitment-free to be a member of the co-op,” said Hanna Mitchell, program director for Solar United Neighbors of Texas.

When the organization launches in a new town, residents attend meetings and sign up for their local co-op. When the number of people in the co-op reaches 30, Solar United Neighbors puts out a call for contractors to bid on solar installation for the group. Group members meet and pick the best bidder, Mitchell said.

From the launch of the co-op through the time when the last person has solar power in their home, Solar United Neighbors serves as a resource and liaison for its members.

“Texas is a great state for solar, and we’re excited to help make this renewable resource more accessible to people through the group-buy model,” said Molly Rooke, a member of 250 Dallas, a local environmental conservation group, in a statement.

The organization started when now-executive director Anya Schoolman’s son saw the climate change documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth” and insisted that his parents install solar panels at their home in Washington, D.C. Schoolman saw how complicated and expensive solar panel installation could be and decided to bring the neighborhood together to see if they could pool information and get a bulk discount.

“She decided there was a lot of power in people being able to take control over their energy,” Mitchell said.

Solar United Neighbors launched as a nonprofit in 2011. Their first Texas co-op formed in Houston last year, and the Dallas one will be the fifth in the state.

The first step for Dallas residents will be to attend one of two scheduled information sessions early next year. At the meetings, residents will hear about joining the co-op, common ways to finance the transition to solar and what installers will look for when they set up solar panels. Joining is free, and there is no commitment to purchase solar panels, Mitchell said.

Solar United Neighbors also offers consulting services for people looking to install solar not as part of a co-op.

Although people sign up for solar for a variety of reasons — from environmental concerns to an interest in controlling electricity costs — people have been  excited to get the process going, Mitchell said.

“You’re producing electricity that’s local and homegrown and zero emissions,” she said.

The first Dallas meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Texas New Era Center, 1408 N. Washington Ave.

A second meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at Anita Martinez Recreation Center, 3212 N. Winnetka Ave.

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