Solar installation.Co-op Power members installing solar panels.Photo: Co-op PowerCo-ops are hugely underrated for their potential to make good happen in the world. As an example, the renewable energy co-op I’m a member of in the Northeast, aptly named Co-op Power, had its first “member to member” solar hot water installation this weekend. The power of this co-op is in its 300-plus members’ enthusiasm, and it was in evidence on this day as our trained team hoisted two panels into place, which were making hot water by evening.

This barn-raising-style event gets co-op members’ systems installed without having to pay for the installation (each install is designed by a pro, though). With the federal rebate of 30 percent (up to $2,000) on such systems and the power of buying in bulk working in tandem, we’re putting these systems up for about 50 percent off, and in many cases, that will work out to about a three-year payback.

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But maybe the best part of it is that we’re all learning how to create a renewable future and building community along the way. Between making our homes mini power plants to pooling our funds to catalyze renewable energy assets (like our proposed community-scale biodiesel plant that uses waste oil as its feedstock or perhaps a large solar electric array), it’s a way to take back some responsibility for, and ownership of, our energy production. Cooperatively.

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