The Solarize Greater Media campaign was envisioned by the TTM Energy Group in early 2015 as a way to promote renewable solar energy by making it easier and cheaper to obtain. Nearly 2 years later, it’s finally winding down. A lot of work by some very dedicated volunteers and our partners, the DVRPC and the Delaware County Planning Department – so how did it turn out?
It turned out great! We held 10 informational events and did extensive marketing, with eventually over 300 people on our mailing list who were interested in getting a proposal for solar panels on their homes. Out of these, 50 people took the plunge and signed contracts with our selected installer, Solar States, representing over 350kW of new solar energy in the Greater Media area. (Honestly, more contracts came in after our mid-June cut-off date, but we didn’t count them.) Besides these homeowners, we began conversations with Swarthmore College and with a local church which we think will lead to more significant solar installations. Since our goal was 30 new solar homes, we’re feeling pretty good about the program’s success.
We thought we were pretty much done after our mid-June deadline, thought we would just track the progress of the installs and have a big party once they were all done. What we didn’t expect is that we would run into problems with PECO’s old system of wires, transformers, and substations – all perfectly adequate for normal electric use but, in some areas, not up to accepting the extra energy generated by a solar home. About 30% of our participants were denied connection to the grid, a ratio we soon found out was being experienced by other installers in the area. Apparently, all this new interest in solar (Solar City and Vivant were also becoming very active here) revealed that our electrical distribution system wasn’t geared to handling a lot of local solar energy.
PECO was initially not very responsive to our questions about the denied connections but they have begun working with us and Solar City to try to resolve as many of them as possible. To date, 7 of our 16 denials have been resolved, although some with reduced system wattage and/or greater cost, 4 have dropped out, and 5 are still in negotiation. We should still be able to see about 300kW of new renewable energy by the time we put this project to bed.
So where do we go from here? Well, our little Solarize team has gotten pretty fired up about seeing a huge increase in solar generation in our area. We’ve started thinking about larger projects in Media Borough and in Chester. Along with that, however, we will need to address our inadequate grid. We started a letter-writing campaign to the PUC to bring attention to the 30% or more of our homes not being able to generate solar energy, hoping that by bringing enough outrage about this situation to them, we’ll be able to prod PECO into making real progress in upgrading their system.
If you’d like to see Media and Delaware County be a leader in renewable energy, bringing our local solar generation from about 4% to at least 20% by 2020 (and then 50%, and finally 100% renewable by 2050), join us! You could write to the PUC even if you’re not part of the Solarize campaign (we’ll supply you with a template and some pertinent facts). You could help us research opportunities for partnerships and funding, helping us choose the best next project to advance our goals. Or help us determine the best ways to market our next moves. There’s plenty to go around – and we’d love to have you on our team. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk solar!