Meet the Country’s Solar Co-op Started by Preteens

May 9, 2024 | by

This looks like an excellent program! I’m going to try and find/start a co-op in my area.

On Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, 2024, the Biden administration announced 60 recipients who received $7 billion in a solar power grant competition called the Solar for All program. The awardees were selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the program will help bring residential solar projects to more than 900,000 households in the U.S.

The nonprofit Solar United Neighbors (SUN) worked closely with 12 applicants of the Solar for All program and will continue the process with grant recipients as funds are dispersed. In an interview with me for the Independent Media Institute on April 26, SUN’s communications director, Ben Delman, said that it had been an “exciting week” as their organization put significant work into the Solar for All program. He says this will “infuse money to local governments to help expand solar access” to low-income communities.

The project was started by two preteen friends who were moved to action after watching the documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” in 2007. Twelve-year-old Walter (the son of Anya Schoolman, SUN’s founder and executive director), and his friend of the same age, Diego, decided to go door to door in their neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant in Washington, D.C. In two weeks, the boys gathered about 50 neighbors together who also wanted to go solar. This was the foundation of Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative and the start of what would become SUN. From there, the kids—supported by Anya Schoolman—worked to get legislation passed to improve solar policies in the Washington, D.C., area.

SUN has created a video to explain the benefits of joining a local solar cooperative, and how joining a solar co-op is “free, and open to anyone” in a given designated co-op area. The Phoenix Metro Co-op, for example, is available to residents in Maricopa County, San Tan Valley, and Queen Creek.

Delman also shares that one of SUN’s focuses is on bringing solar access to rural areas, specifically via the Renewable Energy for America Program. This is a federal program run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides both grants and loans to farms and rural small businesses wanting to adopt renewable energy systems.


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