Green Building

Solar at the Grassroots Level

0 Comments 15 September 2010

Solar at the Grassroots Level

Georgetown Energy Making Some Waves

It is not often I come across efforts like the following but recently I became aware of an exciting solar initiative being led by several Georgetown University students. It appears they are making some real waves when it comes giving solar a presence for our region.  As a newly-founded student led energy group “Georgetown Energy” has been organizing community meetings and going door to door sharing with homeowners the current incentives and encouraging them to be leaders in their community. Georgetown Energy was founded in the fall of 2009 by Alice Antunes, Andrew Gilligan and Anthony Conyers with the conviction that solar energy is central to America’s energy future and that making a difference should start in their own community.

Georgetown Energy

“There’s a lot of information out there about solar. Most people accept the environmental benefits, but are unsure about upfront costs and payback time. Our goal is to bridge that information gap. We want to help D.C. residents save money through renewable energy, and solar is a great way to do it,” says Anthony Conyers, the group’s co-founder.

This isn’t your typical eco-friendly group. Nowhere on their website www.georgetownenergy.com will you find the words “environment” or “climate change.” They have focused strictly on the financial benefits. They learned that a D.C. homeowner can recoup up to 90% of solar installation costs through 3 incentives: the D.C. Rebate, the Federal Tax Credit, and upfront payments from Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). Homeowners will immediately save an additional 3% by going through Georgetown Energy, as they have secured volume discount agreements with select contractors. The group is student-run and since it is completely non-profit it doesn’t charge for any of its consulting services.

All in all, the typical installation costs about $3000-$4000. The system would then pay for itself in 3-4 years, and reduce annual electricity bills by 30-50%. Using solar energy also drastically reduces your carbon footprint.

Their main goal is to help forty homeowners go solar by May 2011. They are well on their way to achieving that ambitious goal: four residents have begun solar installations in the Georgetown area and fourteen others are seriously considering beginning the solar process with Georgetown Energy. The group’s initiative does not stop at reaching out to homeowners in the Georgetown area. It is seeking to reach out to residents all over the district–and the nation–by hosting an event on October 10th, 2010.

On that day, 350.org, so named for the FDA’s recommended maximum level of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalents in the atmosphere, is hosting a “global work party.” Thousands of groups in over 100 countries will work to improve the sustainability of the world around them. The installation of the final solar panel on a homeowner’s home is a proud event, and the group thought it presented a unique opportunity for passerby to see a system in action. Georgetown Energy will unveil the first ever residential solar installation in the Georgetown neighborhood. The event is free for all comers. Details are provided in the link below: http://world.350.org/dc/our-1010-projects/.

“It will be an amazing opportunity for a homeowner to show off his pride and for neighboring residents to realize what a tangible project going solar really is. Dr. Clawson will be available to talk to homeowners about his experiences. This isn’t really a sales pitch; we created this event as a way of improving the quality and clarity of information available about going solar,” says another member, Andrew Gilligan.

As a student-founded and student-run group, Georgetown Energy sees itself as a unique renewable energy organization. These students all decided to follow their passion and are working hard to bring about a better world by starting in their backyards. They also have other projects on the back of their minds, including increasing solar generation on the Georgetown University campus and working with Habitat for Humanity.

“We’ve taken a bit of a gamble here; other on-campus groups offer much safer roads to jobs and internships. But we want to achieve something real, something that will continue to improve the community after we all graduate. In terms of energy experience, it doesn’t get much better than this. We’re all learning,” says Conyers. Most of these students are graduating in one to two years and are fighting hard to keep the projects going after they leave by recruiting a talented pool of freshmen and sophomores to continue delivering consulting services.

As Alice Antunes says, “It is incredibly important that not only the current generation but also the succeeding generations fight hard for the protection and well-being of the planet. But we want it to make financial sense as well. This process begins one step at a time, in your own neighborhood and even on your own rooftop.”

Visit www.georgetownenergy.com for more information or contact georgetownenergy@gmail.com, and feel free to drop by on October 10 to see a solar system in action.

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