indiana borough bldg sign

An informational meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Indiana Borough Council chambers will kick off an effort to bring solar energy into Indiana County.

“We thought it might be of benefit,” borough Manager C. Michael Foote said of the planned meeting at the municipal building, 80 N. Eighth St., involving the borough, Evergreen Conservancy, Indiana County Sustainable Economic Development Task Force and the nonprofit Solar United Neighbors organization.

Those groups are behind a co-op that aims to make solar energy more affordable.

“We’re forming this co-op to make saving money with solar energy as simple as possible,” said Indiana County Commissioner Sherene Hess, who helped form the sustainable economic development task force a year ago.

Its stated mission is to identify new opportunities in economic development, education and job training in the renewable energy sector, as well as agriculture, building construction, and environmental restoration and stewardship.

“We also hope the co-op will provide a boost to green jobs in the region by demonstrating that there is strong demand for solar energy in our communities,” Hess said in a news release announcing Thursday’s meeting.

Solar United Neighbors has the stated purpose of expanding access to solar by educating Pennsylvania residents about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening Pennsylvania solar policies and its community of solar supporters.

“I am excited to work with residents in and around Indiana County to educate them about the benefits of solar energy,” said Henry McKay, Solar United Neighbors of Pennsylvania program director and scheduled speaker at Thursday’s meeting.

McKay’s organization said co-op participants will select a single company to complete all of the installations. They will then have the option to purchase panels individually based on the installer’s group rate. By going solar as a group and choosing a single installer, participants can save on the cost of going solar and have the support of fellow group participants and solar experts at Solar United Neighbors.

Foote said Indiana Council President Peter Broad heard McKay’s presentation about solar power at the recent Sustainable Economic Development Task Force summit at the Rustic Lodge.

 “The Solar Co-op helps participants learn about the technology so they feel confident in their decision to go solar,” McKay said.

Foote said the local co-op already has drawn interest from up to 50 area residents through social media. He and other organizers hope it will help generate enough of a following to get a discount on solar panels through bulk purchasing power.

A link to www.solarunitedneighbors.org is available through the news page on the Indiana Borough website, where residents can confirm their interest in attending Thursday’s event.

Foote said there also will be a screening of the documentary “Catching the Sun,” tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11.