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Solarizing Blacksburg & Beyond


Virginia may not be taking the lead when it comes to renewable energy, but that’s not stopping towns and cities around the commonwealth from taking the initiative themselves.  

When the Solarize Blacksburg project kicked of in March the town had just 30 homes with solar power arrays. In only these last few months, that’s doubled.

The initiative brings costs down with group rates for materials and favorable financing. But with a budding new industry such as solar, marketing and outreach take installers and engineers a lot of time, driving up costs because of the learning curve on this new technology.

“It’s not something you can go down to the dealership and test drive," says Carol Davis, Sustainability Manager for the town of Blacksburg

“People have a hard time wrapping their heads around what it is, so sellers have to do a lot of marketing and outreach and time spent in the truck driving around to different sites and that end up really driving up the costs. And what we’ve done with Solarize Blacksburg is brought that cost way, way down.”

People interested adding solar, sign up on a website and get free satellite site survey’s and analysis, plenty of hand holding and are welcome to attend meetings where they can talk to experts.  The idea is to offer the kind of support, which the state of Virginia does not, when it comes to encouraging the adoption of renewable energy here.

“The people who came together and formed this leadership team recognized that Virginia really did not have a very supportive solar policy environment and the reason we wanted to launch the ‘solarize’ –it was a bit of an experiment to say – even if we have a bad solar policy environment, this might be something that could work, while we’re waiting for those policy shifts to occur, which could be next year or be a decade down the road. And we didn’t want to wait anymore.”

After Blacksburg became the first town in Virginia to take the push for solar power into its own hands, dozens of other localities are saying they want to do the same. The first to pull it off is the Star City, will kick off its “Solarize Roanoke” program next month.

The last day to sign up to participate in Solarize Blacksburg is May 31. But the deadline to make a final decision is still many weeks away. There’ll be a meeting in Blacksburg on June 3rd at 6pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church.  For more information click here.


Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.
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