Solar Advocate in Ohio

Ray Stewart is a Solar Advocate in Ohio. Through his efforts, the City of Amherst installed city-operated municipal utility installed bidirectional meters. Ray was the first person in the City of Amherst to go solar!

What’s the story?

Four years ago, Lorain County, Ohio residents got together to organize a bulk purchasing deal for residential solar installations. Resident, Ray Stewart was excited. He was interested in getting a solar array for his home. He attended the community meetings to get up to speed. A core group of individuals evaluated and vetted different solar installers for the bulk purchasing program. This group ultimately chose Third Sun Solar.

Third Sun Solar Consultant, David Zelasko, consulted with Ray through the group buy program. David asked Ray about his motivations for going solar, goals, and available roof space for solar. While going through his routine process to understand the permitting requirements for solar in Amherst, David made a discovery. He discovered that going solar in the City of Amherst wasn’t possible. At that time, the meters on the homes of folks living in the city were not compatible with net-metering. For Ray, this meant that solar wasn’t feasible.

Some History

Because municipal utilities and rural co-ops are not regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, they are not required to offer net metering or allow interconnection for solar. 

All the municipal utilities have their unique rules, so it’s essential to have an installer like Third Sun Solar, who has experience with these utilities and takes the time to do their due diligence. The City of Amherst at the time operated a municipal utility that did not offer net metering. Oberlin, Cleveland Public Power, and the City of Westerville are examples of municipalities that own the electric utility, provide net metering, and where Third Sun has installed solar.

Next Steps

Ray lobbied his Mayor and Councilman, who were supportive of residential solar. And no one was surprised by his request. The Mayor responded that it would be necessary to update software and develop the capacity to manage the change.

In 2019 the city utility department swapped all meters in their territory with bidirectional meters, which interact with residential solar systems and allow for net-metering.

Ray was able to install solar in June of 2019 and has been fueling his home on sunshine ever since!

Going Solar

Since the installation, Ray’s electric charges went down and have stayed down. He enjoys looking up at his roof and seeing the solar panels doing their work up there. He occasionally logs into his monitoring app to check on the data. Ray was lucky to have caught the 30% federal tax credit in its final year and is excited to get the tax credit when he files this year. (the federal tax credit stepped down to 26% in 2020 – read more about the federal tax credit for solar here).

Motivation and Legacy

When asked what motivated him to go solar, he says his motivation is to lower his carbon footprint.

Ray is a gardener, a composter, a recycler, and a hybrid vehicle owner. When solar became possible for him, it was a natural choice. Ray’s value’s alight with Third Sun’s: he feels that anything we can each do to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lower our carbon footprint in the face of climate change is essential.

Ray had his students read Aldo Leapold’s 1949 essay collection A Sand County Almanac as a former science teacher. The essays convey the concept of “land ethic” and the ethical relationship between people and the land where they live.
The signature line in his email reads:

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

― Aldo Leopold

Community members within the City of Amherst now each have the opportunity to lower their carbon footprint.

You could make a case that through Ray’s efforts, the community in which he lives will be treated with a little more love and respect as the community members can now choose to power their homes and lives with clean, healthy, renewable energy.

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