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Local hero convinces her entire community to make a major money-saving home upgrade: '40 people showed up in my living room'

"It's taking some of the barriers away in terms of investigating solar."

Julie Roth, Community solar

Photo Credit: iStock

One Michigan resident was feeling particularly energized about her decision to switch to solar energy — so she decided to try and get her neighbors in on the action, too.

Julie Roth contacted her city's sustainability office and, with its involvement, organized a community meetup to hopefully address any questions or concerns her neighbors had about getting solar panels on their roofs.

She managed to get a local solar installer to offer a discount for her neighbors, too, but there was a catch: If she failed to get enough of them interested, then the offer would be rescinded.

Luckily though, that wouldn't prove to be too much of a problem for Roth. 

"Forty people showed up in my living room, and 12 solar installations went up from that one gathering," she told Yale Climate Connections (YCC).

After this success, she knew she could do even more; so she decided to create a program called Ann Arbor Solarize, which both helps people organize their own solar panel community gatherings and also negotiates group discounts on solar installations. After only a few years of operation, Roth's program has helped 500 households get into solar energy.

The secret behind this success is no mystery to Roth. 

"It's taking some of the barriers away in terms of investigating solar. If you're intrigued about the idea of solar, oftentimes calling an installer … isn't comfortable," she told YCC. "So coming to these meetings that are being hosted by the person that you know down the street, that's comfortable."

Her decision to get her community on board with solar couldn't have come at a better time. Inflation has Americans looking at every part of their expenses to see where cost-saving measures can be made, and the power bill is no exception. While an exact figure is hard to pin down (as energy prices vary widely across the U.S.), the average household can save anywhere from $20,000 and $97,000 over the lifetime of a solar panel system.

Of course, there are other environmental reasons that have many thinking about getting into clean solar energy. Now more than ever, the transition away from dirty energy sources like oil, coal, and gas and towards renewable ones like solar is absolutely vital to the health of our planet, and as awareness of our warming planet grows, so rises the demand for solar and other green sources of energy.

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