Let the sun shine on Shepherdstown. The Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church celebrated the official completion of its community funded solar panel project at a special ribbon cutting ceremony held Tuesday morning.
After more than a year of planning, approximately 60 solar panels were installed by local PV installation company, Mountain View Solar, over the coarse of two days beginning Aug. 18.
Solar Holler's Dan Conant and Shepherdstown Solar Fund's Than Hitt both offered remarks elaborating on the project.
"This project is good for the environment. It's good for the church's financial plan. It's good for our community and its good for West Virginia because this can grow," Hitt said.
"What we've done here can be replicated and implanted across the state. It can bring on a new age of solar energy production in the mountain state of West Virginia."
Dan Conant's Solar Holler, lead the effort to bring panels to the church by working with both Hitt and the church's board members to devise a unique plan to fund the project in the face of several legislative barriers.
"I won't lie to you and say its been easy," Conant said.
"This project is a first of its kind."
Conant said the project was made possible because nearly 100 community members and businesses agreed to participate.
Over the course of a couple months, smart meters were installed on local electric water heaters all around the local area.
Designed by smart grid technology company, Mosaic Power, of Frederick Maryland, these "demand response" controllers, provide greater grid efficiency as part of Mosaic's "virtual power plant."
In turn for greater efficiency, Mosaic will pay participants $100 dollars per tank per year, all of which will be donated to the church to pay approximately 90 percent of the solar project's total costs.
Conant said the other 10 percent will be paid by the sale of renewable energy credits to utilities in the state of Pennsylvania.
The Shepherdstown Solar Fund, LLC., lead by Than Hitt, agreed to take out the upfront $55,000 loan for the project, charging the church just $1 dollar in return.
Organizers estimate it will take no more five years to pay the off the loan with revenue earned from the water heater monitors.
The solar panels are expected to cut the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church's energy use in half in the first year of use, according to Hitt.
"Our goal is to do one of these projects in every county in West Virginia," Conant said.
Solar Hollers next project is with the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library.
Though the organization will use a similar financial model, Conant said future endeavors will be streamlined entirely through Solar Holler and its lenders.
Approximately 75 water heaters are needed to fund the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry project.
Interested homeowners and businesses can learn more by visiting solarholler.com.