From Wall Street to the streets of Seattle, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the “Occupy” movement. On Friday, Edmonds community solar activist Carlo Voli added another concept to the list: “Occupy the Rooftop.”
From Friday through Sunday afternoon, Voli will live on the rooftop of the Fabric of Life building at 523 Main St. The goal is to both raise awareness of solar power’s benefits and grow membership in the Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative — and expand the solar-powered system now installed on the Frances Anderson Center rooftop.
The cooperative recently installed its first 4.2 kilowatt system, funded through investments from 37 co-owners/members, and is working sell additional shares — known as SunSlices — to install a larger 60 KW system on the Frances Anderson Center roof before summer 2012. There is some urgency to the effort: To qualify for the federal incentives for Community Solar, the Edmonds-based Solar cooperative needs to raise at least $30,000 in SunSlices by Dec. 17.
So Voli — a cooperative board member who purchased the project’s first SunSlice — decided to generate publicity by pitching a tent on the Fabric of Life building rooftop, an appropriate venue given that another community activist, Fabric of Life owner Carol Schillios, spent more than three months on the same roof in late 2009 to create awareness of global poverty issues.
Voli is equipped with a 123-volt solar panel connected to a marine deep-cycle battery and an inverter, which powers lights, a cell phone and laptops. He also brought a solar oven, and before our interview had just taken advantage of the sunny afternoon to cook a pot of organic brown rice. He has a warm sleeping bag and “lots of layers” for warmth while sleeping overnight, he said.
Voli, an international marine equipment sales manager and father of two, said it’s easy to explain the connection between the “Occupy” movement and “Occupy the Rooftop.”
“Just like taking money from big banks and putting it into the credit union, you’re taking power away from big banks by creating clean, renewable energy,” he said. While not everyone has $1,000 to buy a SunSlice, “many do,” he said, and often that money is invested in funds that support traditional power sources like oil or coal. “Take some of that money out and invest in a clean future,” he said.
Voli noted that a neighbor recently purchased additional SunSlices for each of his children, “as an investment in their futures,” and he encouraged those who are able to consider doing the same for their children and grandchildren.
“We want to motivate residents, businesses, and organizations in Snohomish County, to be part of the solution and join the solar co-op,” Schillios said. “It’s time to occupy all the rooftops in our state with locally-manufactured solar panels to create clean renewable energy and jobs.”
The Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative is the first citizen-owned community solar cooperative in Washington state.
It’s estimated the system will produce 75,000 kilowatt hours annually – a significant share of the Frances Anderson Center’s electrical use. The city is leasing roof space to the solar cooperative and will buy electricity from the project at discounted rates until 2020.
For every $1,000 invested in a SunSlice purchase, cooperative members will receive $100 back each year for the remaining nine years on the Cooperative’s lease with the city. But Voli hopes the group’s reach will extend beyond the Frances Anderson roof, to placing solar systems on many other roof tops in Edmonds. “It’s an expansion of people power,” he said. “Even if you don’t have a south-facing roof or money to invest in a solar system for your home, you can support community solar.”
More information on the Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative can be found here.