Though the sun is setting earlier and earlier as winter approaches, it is just now rising for the future of renewable resources, especially that of solar energy. The Center for Coalfield Justice and Solar United Neighbors have pooled their resources to provide vital information and resources to the people of Greene County through the Greene County Solar Festival Saturday, Sept. 28, said Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice Veronica Coptis.
“Our goal is that people walk away with a better idea of the opportunities that solar energy will provide and the economic opportunities,” Coptis said.
The event hosted a conglomeration of local solar installers that shared information directly with the public, as well as, owners of electric cars who offered test drives to those curious about its dynamics. Vendors included Momma’s Flags, Our Children Our Earth, Funnel Cakes, EIS Solar Green, Solar Systems, Envinity and Appalachian Renewable Power.Dan Baker, Randy and Daria Jones and David and Mary Beth Craig provided music for the event. There is a hope between both agencies that this solar festival will be an annual event.
“We want the community to know that even if you live in West-Greene you can have access to this information without having to drive to Pittsburgh to get it,” Coptis said.
The Center for Coalfield Justice provides services for Washington and Greene counties. Coptis, who resides in Greene County, recognizes that many in the surrounding area who may want to purchase these services are just unaware.
“We are routinely traveling to other places to attend solar festivals. That information never seems to make it to the places that are interested and need that information,” Coptis said. “We thought we could hold our own festival and give residents the opportunity to be informed about the solar industry and available job opportunities in the solar industry.”
The Center for Coalfield Justice has been answering questions in the community as an environmental advocacy agency long before the solar festival idea. For the last four years, they’ve been working on communicating available economic diversity.
“We’ve been educating people about available professions, not just good paying jobs in the fossil fuel industry, and making sure people have options and an agency to help them decide where they’re going to support their families,” Coptis said.
The agency works with about 2,000 members and supporters in the area, as well as eight full-time staff that work with members of the community.
Solar United Neighbors has been working with the Center for Coalfield Justice in southwestern Pennsylvania for about a year on the Greene County Solar Festival. Henry McKay, Pennsylvania program director for Solar United Neighbors, notes that solar energy can be a hard sell to those in this area.
“This is a challenging market for solar energy. There’s a lot of solar growth happening in Pennsylvania but not so much southwestern Pennsylvania or Greene County,” McKay said. “Part of the reason is less awareness and understanding of how it can benefit the local economy and business. So, we thought a fun, flashy event like a solar festival could raise awareness and help more people benefit from the industry.”
McKay is hoping this event will make people take immediate action to go solar in their homes and businesses, as his main goal is to influence people through its benefits.
“The future of energy is renewable resources, like solar, which doesn’t rely on fuels that run out and provides additional benefits that fossil fuels do not,” McKay said. “It is cleaner and renewable. If Pennsylvania wants to maintain energy leadership it really needs to get on board with the next generation of tech: solar.”
Knowing that residents are interested in solar energy, said Coptis, will help with the slow transition to renewable resources, Copis explained.
“Some of the reasons you would live in rural areas is because we have the least amount of people,” Coptis said. “But, when we need to be connected, we’re often last to get service. If we transition from being energy dependent to the largest grid, folks will have more access to the info that they didn’t have before.”