By Tracy Bartella
This spring, a group of five students from Antioch University New England are teaming up with the Monadnock Sustainability Network to bring community solar to the Monadnock region.
Gaining in recent popularity across the United States, community solar projects are cooperatively owned systems that provide energy and financial benefit to multiple members of the community. The adoption of the title Monadnock Community Solar Initiative, or MCSi, is a reflection of the group’s strong focus on local community and solar energy, even including in its name the symbol for the element silicon (Si), a primary component of solar cells.
Mari Brunner, an Antioch student completing this project for credit toward her Master’s in Environmental Studies, is excited about the community solar initiative because she sees it as a great opportunity for people throughout the community to invest in renewable energy, support fellow community members, and gain a small financial return themselves. She also highlights the long term benefits of community solar projects, including greater innovation within the energy sector. “Community solar has many benefits,” she said. “It is a hedge against rising fuel costs, it reduces emissions of pollutants and carbon, and it drives energy independence.”
Falling installation costs and creative new financing models have made solar projects more financially feasible, and funders can expect to see a return on investment in as little as five years. “Community solar is an emerging segment of the fast paced solar market,” states John Kondos, a founding member of the Monadnock Sustainability Network and local energy company, Solar Source. “Commercial solar continued to grow last year and large scale utility projects were the largest segment of solar installed in 2013. There are already several community solar systems just across the river in Vermont.” Kondos went on to explain, “The Monadnock Community Solar initiative (MCSi) is a result of the folks behind the Brattleboro Co-op PV [solar] system speaking at Keene Green Drinks last fall. If they can do it, why can’t we?”
The Antioch team will release an initial feasibility study for the project in mid-March and propose siting alternatives for the final location of the solar electricity system. MCSi is currently looking to form a group of core citizens who will help develop, fund, and implement the project. Local citizens interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity should contact John Kondos at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Tracy Bartella is part of the Antioch University student project group that is working with the Monadnock Sustainability Network to initiate this community solar project in the Monadnock region.