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Officials announce solar co-op for Tippecanoe and Montgomery counties

Dan Robinson with United Solar Neighbors discusses the co-op program (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)
Dan Robinson with United Solar Neighbors discusses the co-op program (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Officials with the national nonprofit Solar United Neighbors visited Lafayette and Crawfordsville this week for the launch of a solar co-op across Tippecanoe and Montgomery counties.

Officials hope the co-op incentivizes residents and businesses to purchase solar panels.

Co-ops want to lower the costs of panels through bulk community purchases.

Dan Robinson is the Indiana program associate for Solar United Neighbors. He said the goal is to get fifty people to join the co-op across the two counties.

“Imagine, if you will, you and 50 of your neighbors walking into an installer and saying ‘Hey, give us your best deal on a solar system for each of us,’” he said. “That’s what a buying group or solar group is about.”

Across the country, Robinson said co-ops have saved buyers roughly 15 percent on their solar purchase – although the amount has varied by location.

Solar United Neighbors has formed a number of co-ops in Indianapolis, Boone County, Hamilton County, and in counties around Lake Michigan and South Bend.

Once the co-op has fifty members, Solar United Neighbors runs a competitive bid process with various different solar vendors to try and get residents the best deal possible.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said he hopes the program will incentivize residents to purchase solar systems.

“We’re excited to support the first solar co-op open to homeowners, small businesses, and not-for-profits in the Greater Lafayette Area,” he said. “The innovative model will make it easier for our community to invest in and benefit from solar energy.”

Officials say solar co-ops offer a way to drive down the initial cost of buying solar, which has become increasingly important as Indiana has phased down its rates for net metering.