Why buy electricity when you can solarize it? Solarize Eugene wants to bring solar energy to your neighborhood to power your home and heat your water.
There are financial incentives through the state and EWEB for locals to purchase solar panels, but the Solarize Eugene program goes even further, organizing neighborhood groups to hire contractors together. This concerted effort for EWEB customers can cut the installation costs on the labor end as well as on the solar electric panels and water heaters, which are purchased in bulk.
The other aspect of the program is to educate community members about solar installation through workshops allowing contractors to spend less time and money explaining how it all works to each buyer.
The Solarize program has been developed in other parts of the state and began as a southeast Portland project a few years ago. According to parent organization Solar Oregon, the first area to begin the project had 120 residential installations within six months.
Program organizers held a meeting Jan. 11 at the Eugene Public Library to gather volunteers for the project. The program is being coordinated by The Resource Innovation Group (TRIG), a nonprofit affiliated with the Center for Sustainable Communities at Willamette University, which specializes in cultivating these type of approaches to complex social-ecological problems such as climate change.
Sarah Mazze, program manager at TRIG, is heading up the search for volunteers and community outreach.
“The main opportunity for volunteer participation is doing the outreach planning and then the actual outreach for the project,” she says.
Community engagement is what Mazze finds to be one of the keys to the Solarize model. In the next few months she is hoping to gather enough volunteers to perform the range of upcoming tasks.
“Canvassing neighborhoods, tabling at events, speaking at different neighborhood association meetings and hanging flyers,” she says, are some of the ways volunteers will be involved in getting the word out.
An outreach committee will begin meeting this month and people who would like to get involved can contact Mazze through solarizeeugene.info. Workshops are likely to begin sometime in March.