Aug 26: Solarize Squirrel Hill Kickoff Workshop

Join Solarize Allegheny, SmartPower, the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition, solar installers, and local solar homeowners to learn about how and why to go solar!

5:30-7:30 in the Community Room of the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library.

“We don’t get enough sun in Western PA for solar power.”   That is something we’ve heard over and over, but it’s just not true.  There are over 200 solar homeowners in Allegheny County who are happy to be generating all or part of their electrical needs right now.  In fact, Allegheny County gets more sunlight than Germany, the nation with the most solar generating capacity. 

The earth receives thousands of times the energy from the sun than all the energy used by humans.  There’s a cartoon that shows a couple of people looking down a hole in the earth under a very bright sun saying, “There must be energy down there somewhere!”  When will we realize that the sun is our most abundant power source?  Solar panels are quiet, reliable, proven technology. 

Imagine generating your own electricity right on your roof, or in your yard!  No charge from the electric company, no distribution losses, no pollution. Unfortunately Pittsburgh is right downwind from many power plants on the Ohio River in West Virginia and Ohio.  Heard the talk about the harmful effects of air pollution?  A lot of that impact comes from those power plants.  This is another reason that our region is a great fit for solar.  Even though we might not have as much sunshine as Arizona, the electricity generation around here is mostly from coal, and the population density is much higher.   So a great many health problems can be avoided by going solar in our region -- and you’ll be lessening your carbon footprint, to boot.

Another comment we hear often is that solar panels are too expensive.  However, the price has come down tremendously in recent years – now they can be installed on your home for less than $4.00 a watt.   That can make the payback period for a typical homeowner about 8 to 11 years.   If the initial cost, let’s say around $20,000, is too daunting then think about financing.  It’s possible that the monthly payment will be less than your old electric bill.

One of the least expensive ways to go is to remain “grid-tied.”  That eliminates the need for costly batteries because you can use power from the grid as needed.  But when the sun is up, you get to use your own power first -- and if there is any excess then you send it out on the grid for others to use.  Duquesne Light reads your meter each month just like before, but if there is any excess generation they send you a check once a year for the “net” surplus. 

While we’re thinking about money, did you know there is a 30% federal tax credit for any system installed?  That credit is set to expire at the end of 2016, but for now you can deduct 30% of the cost of a system from your federal taxes you owe when you file.   That makes a $20,000 system cost you only $14,000. 

So what does one need to have for successful solar installation?  A roof or yard with good sun exposure (ideally facing generally south), with little shading from trees or surrounding buildings.   A good roof is also important;  the panels have a life of 25 or more years so you don’t want to put them on a roof that will need to be replaced soon.

The other thing you need is a good installer and that’s where Solarize Allegheny/Solarize Squirrel Hill makes it simple for you.  Solarize Allegheny is a campaign funded by The Heinz Endowments and managed by a non-profit organization called SmartPower.   Solarize Allegheny has been used successfully by Point Breeze homeowners and other neighborhoods in the County.    By going to you can get free quotes from at least two local, pre-screened and qualified installers.  They can tell you if your home is a good candidate for solar panels, provide options and prices, and if you choose to proceed, they do all the work from obtaining permits to doing the installation and arranging for inspections.  It’s simple and affordable.

The Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition is leading the effort to solarize Squirrel Hill right now.  We will be holding workshops, solar tours, and other functions to help you out.  Go to  for a schedule of events and more information.

                        This article written by your SHUC Solarize committee

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