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Solar energy made accessible

An area group says it has made gaining access to solar energy easier than ever before. Central Virginia Solar Co-op is partnering with Sustainable Technology Institute (STI) to provide solar panels to customers.

“Co-op members selected (the institute) for its warranties, competitive pricing and quality components,” the release stated.

The 27-member co-op is part of VA SUN, a statewide organization which both educates the public about solar energy and installs solar energy systems. Several local organizations — Natural pHuel, Farmville Area Kiwanis, Holistic Moms Network, Southside Virginia chapter and Rochette’s Florist — worked with VA SUN to organize the group.

STI’s Zak Dowell said the company is honored to work with the co-op and residents of Central Virginia. The company is eager to begin installing solar energy systems, Dowell said.

He said it will be installing the systems at the “lowest rates the company has ever offered.”

According to the release, each co-op member will be provided an installer who will create an individualized proposal. Each group member who participates will save up to 20 percent off their total cost.

STI Communications Director Ben Delman said the cost of the system is dependent on the size of the customer’s roof and how much solar energy the customer wants to generate.

Delman said “a good ballpark for an average-sized system is $13,000, but many can get into small system for under $9,000,” not including 30 percent federal tax credits.

“Over the long term, solar customers end up saving money as they’re able to offset the cost of their monthly electric bills with their system’s production,” Delman said.

After installation, the county and the customer’s regular electric provider have to approve them, with approval usually finalized a few months later.

Allison Crews, a co-op member, said she plans on installing solar energy as soon as she can.

“I feel this is a way to be more independent of greedy corporations and increase our self-sustaining abilities,” Crews said. “That will be a revolution I’d like to see and I will do what I can to help make it happen.”

The co-op is accepting new members — who are not required to purchase solar panels — through Oct. 31. A session to educate the public about solar energy and to recruit additional members will take place at the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library on Aug. 30 at 6:30 p.m.

For more information or to become a member, visit www.vasun.org/central-va.