Solar panels

An effort started a year ago to bring solar energy to Indiana County is coming to an end — for now — with a celebration scheduled Wednesday at a downtown Indiana restaurant.

“The Indiana County Solar Co-op is wrapping up, with the final few installations set to complete soon,” said Henry McKay, Pennsylvania program director for Solar United Neighbors, a nonprofit working with Indiana Borough, Evergreen Conservancy and the Indiana County Sustainable Economic Development Task Force.

“The Indiana County Solar Co-op is a time-limited program that we’re running,” McKay said. “It takes a group of people solar with a special price from a competitively selected installer, but it has a deadline for people to join.”

Through July, there were 65 members who signed up with the co-op, with 15 taking the next step and signing up for contracts for installation of solar panels.

In turn, Solar United Neighbors said it has been working since 2007 to help thousands of people “save money and peace of mind by going solar in co-ops.”

But if the cause of representing solar owners and supporters will continue, the current cooperative won’t.

“We can’t force the installer to honor a specific pricing deal for too long a time, as market conditions and equipment prices change,” McKay said. “So the co-op is concluding as planned. We hope to launch a new co-op next year in Indiana County since there still seems to be demand.”

In March the Indiana County Solar Co-Op chose Groundhog Solar LLC through what it called a competitive bidding process over three other firms, citing its competitive pricing, strong track record of installations and system performance guarantee.

“It is an honor to be selected because we know how thoroughly they reviewed each bid,” Richard Flarend, owner of Altoona-based Groundhog Solar, said in a March news release. “We are eager to help more people go solar by providing quality panels at a good price.”

On its Facebook page, the borough of Indiana called attention to a solar tour conducted recently by the Sustainable Economic Development Task Force.

“The tour consisted of visiting properties with solar (panels) installed — most of which were recently put in as part of the recent solar co-op,” the borough posted. “Solar installers Groundhog Solar and Green Solar Systems LLC (of Greensburg) were also there to field questions from participants.”

In addition to Indiana and Allegheny counties, solar cooperatives operated for the Upper Ohio Valley area, covering parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, as well as the Mon-Yough area, and regions that include Cambria County; Crawford and Mercer counties; and Beaver and Butler counties.

The celebration capping the current round of activity for Indiana County’s solar cooperative is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the banquet room at The Coney, 642 Philadelphia St., downtown Indiana.

Solar United Neighbors will provide appetizers as well as photos of what’s been done in the past year and what is next for Indiana County and beyond. Drinks can be purchased from the bar.

RSVPs are requested at the sustainableindianacounty.org website.