VA SUN recently connected with one of our super volunteers, Wayne Nolde, to learn more about his experience going solar and what inspired him to volunteer with us. Wayne went solar with the Augusta County Solar Co-op in 2015, and since then has generously spent a great deal of his time encouraging other homeowners in the area to go solar and join the Mountain and Valley Solar Co-op.
Before going solar, Wayne had been interested in solar energy for many years. Wayne was initially inspired to consider solar when his twin brother went solar in Colorado and when his sister and brother-in-law went solar and even helped form solar co-ops in upstate New York. But it wasn’t until he heard about the Augusta County Solar Co-op that Wayne decided to solarize his home. Wayne went to a few co-op information sessions and after receiving a proposal from Sigora, the co-op’s selected installer, signed a contract and installed a 4.48 kW solar system on his home. Wayne has been very happy with his solar system’s energy production and low maintenance needs.
Since the co-op ended, Wayne came across several neighbors who were interested in solar, but hadn’t made the commitment for various reasons. After seeing other VA SUN solar co-ops launch a Round 2, he thought it would be worth doing another co-op in his area. In late 2016, Wayne reached out to VA SUN’s Program Director, Aaron Sutch, with the idea. He connected with other partner organizations, including CAAV (Climate Action Alliance of the Valley), rallied a core group of folks in the area, and before he knew it, the Mountain and Valley Solar Co-op was up and running!
To help generate interest in the Mountain and Valley Solar Co-op, Wayne has volunteered to spread the word and share his own experience going solar. In March, Wayne acted as a solar ambassador at one of our first Mountain and Valley Solar Co-op information sessions, sharing his experience with interested homeowners and answering their questions from a solar homeowner’s perspective.
Shortly thereafter, Wayne and his wife volunteered to host a solar open house for prospective and new co-op members. Nearly 20 people attended, including two other members of the 2015 Augusta Co-op, who helped Wayne answer questions. Wayne gave attendees a tour of his solar home, shared his experience going solar through the co-op, and showed the group an electronic display of the solar array’s electricity production and savings. Later, Wayne informally hosted a second solar open house for members of his church.
Over the last few months, Wayne has distributed countless Mountain and Valley Solar Co-op flyers to area homes and businesses. He also volunteered to staff an information table for VA SUN at the Waynesboro Riverfest in April, to spread the word about the Mountain and Valley Solar Co-op to as many people as possible.
When asked how he encourages people to consider going solar and join the co-op, Wayne points out the environmental benefits of going solar, the federal subsidies available to help offset the upfront cost, the increase in home value, and the fact that solar protects you from rising electricity rates (rates have risen 44% since 2000 in Virginia, according to data from the Energy Information Administration). Upfront cost, he says, is the most common challenge for people considering solar. “People will spend that amount of money to buy a car because they need transportation,” Wayne explains, “but people don’t think they need to spend that much on electricity, even though it will save them in the long run.” Wayne says he explains the value of making the investment in solar panels by comparing the benefit of buying a car versus leasing it.
Wayne feels strongly that more outreach and education are needed to get the word out about distributed solar energy and its value. If more people help spread the word in their communities – to their neighbors, soon-to-be homeowners, and even students – Wayne feels that solar would really take off, even more than it already has. He concludes our chat by letting me know that VA SUN and Community Power Network are doing a great service for communities like his. We think Wayne is doing his community a great service too. Thank you, Wayne, keep up the great work!
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