Solar Holler in West Virginia is installing solar panels for non-profit organizations for merely $1. “If you can [make solar energy viable] in West Virginia, you can do it anyplace else in the country.”
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, has a lot to offer American history buffs. The town is the site of militant abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 raid on the national Armory, and the historic downtown buildings and brick streets have been lovingly restored. But Harpers Ferry isn’t just about the past. It’s also home to an affordable new approach to crowd-funding solar power projects.
“Coal has helped us in the past. Both my grandfathers were coal miners. But that day has come and gone.”
West Virginia might not be the first place that comes to mind when innovations in solar power are discussed. This is coal country, and more than 95 percent of the state’s energy came from coal-fired power plants in 2014.
However, after decades of dealing with environmental consequences of coal and a declining number of mining jobs, many West Virginians are interested in solar’s promise. The cost of solar panels has declined dramatically in recent years, but installations remain financially out-of-reach for many communities in central Appalachia, where poverty rates in some counties are about 60 percent more than the national average.
But financing the 12 solar panels that currently grace the local library’s roof—a $15,000 project—was not a problem because the cost to the library was only $1. That’s thanks to a partnership with Solar Holler, a social venture firm that invests in solar for nonprofits in West Virginia.
Solar Holler uses crowd-funding to finance solar energy systems. Instead of making cash contributions, supporters donate the rebates they earn from installing an energy-saving control device on their water heaters.
Read more at NationofChange.