“It really started out innocently. Walter and Diego saw ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ and they came back saying, ‘We can’t wait for the government. The government’s never going to solve our problems. We need to do something today. Let’s go solar.’
“At that time there were no installers based in Washington D.C. They were only in the suburbs and Maryland, and none of them would come into the city. We called 20 installers, and the estimate they gave us was a really large number. That was pretty much, in my mind, the end of the project. But I said to the boys, ‘Look, this is too much work and too expensive to do on our own. What if we got the whole neighborhood together?’
“I thought they would just punt, but they didn’t. They created the Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative, and they created this little form and they started carrying it around door-to-door in our neighborhood. If we didn’t have two teenage boys in charge of the project, I don’t think we would have ever made it.
“By two weeks, we had 50 houses signed up to join the project. It was really neighbors working with neighbors. Some lawyers volunteered, some installers volunteered. We got involved with legislation at D.C. to help fix what was wrong with our solar market. And two years later, we took 45 houses in our neighborhood solar, all together as a group.
“I think what is right around the corner is the idea that we can all be in a dynamic system linked together, where we can produce energy, we can store energy, we can put energy into the grid when other people need it. We can make energy cheaper for everyone. We can integrate massive amounts, up to 100% percent of renewable energy on the grid. But it really involves individual people becoming active participants in the market.
“What started as a local project run by two twelve year olds has now grown, one neighbor at a time, into a national organization called Solar United Neighbors.”
Anya Schoolman, founder and executive director of Solar United Neighbors (SUN), is one of the 320 people that author Bill Nussey interviewed for his new book, “Freeing Energy: How innovators are using local-scale solar and batteries to disrupt the global energy industry from the outside in.”
Learn more about Anya Schoolman and SUN from her interview on the Freeing Energy podcast.
You can see all the heroes (so far) and their stories here.
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