Electric co-ops find using members as an extra set of eyes and ears pays dividends.
By Jody Garlock
When members of Valley Electric Association (VEA)
in Pahrump, Nev., began clamoring a half-decade
ago for ways to tap into renewable energy―particularly
the desert region's abundant sunshine―the
20,800-member co-op knew just where to start the
process. It tapped its VEA Ambassador Program, a
member advisory committee (MAC), to brainstorm ideas.
"The ambassadors sat down with us, and soon we had penciled
out a program for solar water heating," recalls Linda Kass, the co-op's
member & communications coordinator.
Armed with the input, the co-op in 2009 teamed with Eagan,
Minn.-based Rheem Manufacturing Company―which also produces
super-efficient Marathon electric water heaters that many electric
co-ops have marketed for years―to roll out the largest residential
solar water heating initiative in the nation. The co-op offers zeropercent
financing on four sizes of Rheem solar water heaters, with
payments running as little as $23 per month.
"The appliances cost between $2,000 and $2,800, with installation
running about $1,200," Kass remarks. "Since we use all local
trade people, we've created 50 to 100 job opportunities."
She continues: "Participating consumers are saving between
$21 and $45 per month and can produce more hot water while
reducing the size of their carbon footprint―more than 3,000 pounds
of carbon dioxide
per home annually.
they qualify for a
30 percent federal
tax credit. But it
all came about
an incredible partnership
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