[The following news was submitted by Suchitra Balachandran , the president of the West College Park Civic Association]

Several Maryland citizens, with the help of Standard Solar, Inc. are celebrating the 40th Earth Day this week upon banding together to sign a community Solar Power Purchase Agreement for a 23 kilowatt photovoltaic electric system on the roof of local church in this leafy bedroom community just east of Washington, DC.

They’re called University Park Community Solar LLC and the system they are purchasing is believed to be the first community-initiated solar electric system in the U.S. It will benefit the 30-plus area participants and generate clean electricity on site for the Church of the Brethren at a predictable price, thereby reducing their region’s reliance on coal-fired power from the regulated utility, Pepco. Pepco burns coal to generate almost half of the electricity it supplies to University Park, the District of Columbia and other Maryland suburbs of DC.

While a solar system is not appropriate for their respective homes due to an expansive canopy of tall oak, pine and maple trees that dominates University Park, Standard Solar, Inc. helped the LLC members identify suitable sites in their neighborhood, designed a customized system for the Church roof and has begun to install it with completion expected next month and a formal unveiling in early June. A great way to reduce your household carbon emissions is to install solar power and the system will normally pay for itself within just a few years.

“By pooling members’ money, we’re displacing carbon with solar, offering a more sustainable source of electricity at a predictable price and we’ll be getting a return on our investment,” said David Brosch, one of the founders of University Park Community Solar LLC.

There are legislative efforts in states such as Connecticut to authorize community solar coops and at least one electric cooperative, in the middle Florida Keys, to lease a single solar panel in a large array but no program that has originated from this type of grass-roots effort as the University Park residents have succeeded in doing.

“This is a model for like-minded homeowners to benefit from solar for their community and for themselves, especially if a solar electric system is not suitable for their residences. Thumbs up to David and his neighbors for realizing their vision and leading by example,” said Standard Solar Chief Technology Officer Lee Bristol who began working with the Coop in the Fall 2008.

Brosch said the LLC participants also wanted to set an example by expressly choosing panels made in America from Sharp USA. The 230-watt panels were made and assembled at Sharp’s Memphis, Tennessee plant.
The Operating Agreement was drawn up pro bono by Caroline Gaudet in the Washington, DC office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

For more information, please contact: David Brosch, Co-Founder, University Park Community Solar LLC, 301-779-3168; davidcbrosch@comcast.net