Roanoke Electric Cooperative launches Community Solar Program

Published 9:43 am Monday, April 23, 2018

AHOSKIE – Roanoke Electric Cooperative announces its new community solar energy program, Roanoke SolarShare. The program will utilize the co-op’s 100 kW community solar farm built in 2015 situated adjacent to the co-op’s main office near Ahoskie.

Roanoke SolarShare is the result of the Roanoke Electric’s partnership with the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC). Guided by NCCETC’s expertise in community solar program development, the co-op was able to ensure program components and structure would make participation and benefits available to all co-op member-owners. The community solar model is designed to make solar available to those formerly excluded. Prohibitive costs, as well as obstacles such as improper roof orientation, neighborhood restrictions or landlord prohibitions, are frequent barriers to homeowners and renters who want to install solar electricity generation systems.

“Availability and affordability were priorities when we created SolarShare, said co-op President and Chief Executive Officer Curtis Wynn. “This project was created in the same spirit that drove the formation of our cooperative 80 years ago. At a time when electricity was out of reach for residents in our rural communities, people joined together to create Roanoke Electric and power their lives. Today, solar energy is out of reach for a lot of residents in our communities. By creating SolarShare, the co-op once again responds to our member-owners’ call to do something about it.”

A key element of the program, and crucial to its success and inclusivity, are sponsorships that will allow the co-op to extend cost-savings benefit to member-owners struggling to pay their electric bill. The program includes multiple sponsorship levels and opportunities to support families and individuals facing financial hardship.

Current sponsors include Strata Solar, a leading provider of utility, commercial and community solar photovoltaic systems. Strata donated $20,000 to sponsor SolarShare, which will cover five of the subscription blocks available through the end of the project in 2034. This will allow Roanoke Electric to select deserving families or individuals, to receive the solar energy credits on their future utility bills.

The solar farm currently houses 300 panels, with subscriptions available in blocks of 10 panels.

“Our goal is to fill all 30 subscriptions,” said co-op Chief Operating Officer Marshall Cherry, “and Strata Solar’s generous contribution gives us a tremendous start toward meeting that goal. We encourage others to follow Strata’s lead as we continue seeking sponsorships and offering our member-owners the opportunity to subscribe to Roanoke SolarShare and reap the program benefits.”

Co-op member-owners may subscribe to SolarShare by paying a monthly $20 subscriber fee for the energy output of 10 panels. They will then receive the value of the energy produced in the form of a credit on their monthly electric bill. The monthly bill credit, estimated to be $21.60, is based on the anticipated solar output of the 10 panels, offering subscribing member-owners an eight percent return on their monthly investment and helping to offset the energy produced from traditional fossil fuels.

Through a combination of member-owner subscriptions and sponsorships, the co-op plans to fill the 30 SolarShare subscriptions.

“We are excited to bring Roanoke SolarShare to our member-owners and to our communities,” concluded Wynn. “We remain committed to making sure all forms of affordable, reliable electricity are available to those we serve. That’s what this community solar program is about.”

Strata Solar and NCCETC officials are likewise excited about the project.

“This was a true collaboration among like-minded groups who knew that working together, we could find a way to make it work” said David Scoglio, CFO at Strata.

Anne Tazewell, Special Projects Manager at the NCCETC said, “We were already providing technical assistance to Roanoke, and when we learned they wanted to carve out subscriptions for low-income residents, we saw an opportunity to help.”

Roanoke Electric Cooperative is a not-for-profit, member-owned electric utility providing service to over 14,500 members in Bertie, Hertford, Halifax, Northampton, Gates, Perquimans and Chowan counties.

Chartered in 1958 to provide light and power to farms, today the co-op serves as an engine of economic development and provides educational, recreational and community assistance services to enhance quality of life of its member-owners throughout the diverse communities it serves.