What You Can Do to Be a Solar Advocate Solar advocacy starts small and grows as much as you put effort into growing it. Every pro-solar person can make a big difference, so let’s start with six easy ways you can support solar energy.
Educate Yourself About Solar Obviously, it’s hard to advocate for something you know little about. Take some time to educate yourself about solar energy, including how it works, solar incentives, and how to finance solar panel systems. Don’t think learning about solar will make a difference? Rebekah Carpenter — CEO of solar installation company Finger Lakes Renewables — begs to differ. Carpenter told EcoWatch there are times she’ll do a home assessment with potential customers who end up not being able to install solar, but she doesn’t view it as a lost business opportunity because she was still able to teach people about solar energy. “It doesn’t mean they’re not making an effort and making a difference just by the fact they’re investigating it and wanting to be doing something different,” Carpenter said. “There are a lot of different ways to make changes and make differences. And if you can afford the resources to make big changes in differences, that’s fantastic! And if you can’t, then you make small changes and differences and you don’t feel [bad] about yourself for doing that.
Support Solar Businesses If you’re switching to solar energy, you’ll either be supporting a business that installs solar or one that sells solar products for your DIY installation. But you don’t have to support a business that’s in the solar industry to be a solar advocate. Does your neighborhood restaurant, grocery store or nursery have solar panels? Spend your money there and let the owners know that you appreciate their decision to use clean energy. Then leave them positive reviews online to encourage others to support these businesses, too. It’s a small way to create a ripple effect of supporting those who invested in solar energy.
Talk to Friends and Family About Solar Sometimes it feels harder to talk to those closest to us about contentious topics such as switching to solar energy. But getting your family and friends on board is a huge way to spread and encourage solar energy. If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the financial benefits of switching to solar energy, don’t keep that information to yourself! We know that talking about bills isn’t everyone’s go-to topic, but who doesn’t love saving money? Anya Schoolman, the founder of solar advocacy group Solar United Neighbors (SUN), told EcoWatch she’s seen firsthand how fast solar can spread from solar users sharing their wins. “Once people meet someone who’s gone solar, and they show them, ‘Hey, my electric bill dropped from $150 to $20,’ they become converts pretty fast,” Schoolman said. “It’s really about meeting real people that have gone solar. It’s that peer-to-peer education and normalization that really makes a difference.” That said, we know there are some people who have strong opinions against solar energy. You don’t want to go into battle without armor, so check out this article for some of the most common arguments against solar and how to best respond to them.
Join a Community Solar Project Would you rather promote solar alongside your neighbors? Community solar programs are popping up around the country and are a great way for people who can’t install their own solar panels to be able to enjoy the benefits of going solar.
So, what is community solar, exactly? Community solar is a term used to describe solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that are shared by multiple consumers — that could be homeowners, renters or businesses. Everyone pays a share or subscription, and the electricity savings and other benefits are split among the community. As a bonus, you’ll instantly be connected with like-minded people who share your vision for clean energy.
Contact Lawmakers About Adopting Solar Policies Schoolman also has some great advice when it comes to contacting lawmakers to fight unfriendly solar policies. For her, solar advocacy started back in 2007 when her family decided to install solar panels on their Washington, D.C., home and were shockingly denied by every solar installer they called. “[Going solar] was really complicated in the city. There weren’t any permitting rules, there weren’t any interconnection rules — all the things you need for a solar market. And it was really expensive, and it was really confusing,” Schoolman told EcoWatch. Instead of accepting defeat, the Schoolmans lobbied for change. Because of their efforts, Washington, D.C., ended up passing a law that created solar incentives in the city and, in 2008, the Schoolmans had helped 45 homeowners go solar. That grassroots effort is what led them to start SUN — one of the biggest solar advocacy nonprofits in the country.
Join a Solar Advocacy Organization This might be the best way to be a solar advocate, because it covers all the tips we’ve mentioned so far. Solar advocacy groups have tons of resources on solar education, solar businesses and how to talk to others about solar. And, as we mentioned, these groups also make it easy to contact policymakers to push for pro-solar laws.
Vote Solar Vote Solar has an incredible mission, using policy expertise, coalition building and public engagement to “help build a strong, just and inclusive 100% clean-powered future.” And you can help make that vision a reality! Vote Solar asks people who believe in solar to take the pledge on its website, joining its tens of thousands of solar activist members across the country. Kristina Zagame is a journalist and content writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering a wide variety of topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts. Kristina’s reporting has taken her all over the U.S., as well as to Puerto Rico and Chile.