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September 22, 2017 at 11:28 am

Energy Village Helps More Invest in Sustainable Energy, Including Students

Energy Village at Pawpaw festival, with tractor in foreground pulling wagonload of pawpaws.

Energy Village at Pawpaw festival

By Kaitlin Kulich
Sustainability Studies Theme

Every year there are many organizations that set up their tents in hopes of drawing attention from the hundreds of people at the Pawpaw Festival. One stop at the fest this year was the Energy Village tent, where people learned ways to invest in sustainable energy solutions within their homes and the Athens community.

There were even some energy and cost savings tips that could help student renters.

“Welcome to the Energy Village! I’m Tom Calhoon, I’m from Meigs County where are you from?”

That’s how Calhoon greeted everyone who entered the Energy Village tent at this year’s Pawpaw fest. He was just one of many representatives from the different organizations and businesses within the Energy Village tent. He works for the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, or COAD, which he explained helps people from low-income households weatherize and implement sustainable energy solutions throughout their homes.

“If you’re a Columbia Gas customer and you make less than or equal to 80 percent of the local median income, which means a lot of our retired folks and senior citizens, you can get your home weatherized for $320,” Calhoon said. “That oftentimes is a $4,000 or $5,000 package.”

Nicole Peoples, Utility Programs Manager of COAD, said senior citizens are not the only people eligible for these affordable energy packages. Students, Peoples said, often times fall under the COAD income requirements as well.

“Students don’t realize that they are eligible. You know you’re living in a house with maybe three other students, and you have no income in student loans, you’re paying your own utility bill so that makes you eligible.”

Peoples went on to explain that the installments in the COAD energy packages include LED energy efficient light bulbs, low flow shower heads, Energy Star refrigerators and freezers, weatherized windows and more.

For those who wanted to to take the next step in their investment with sustainable energy, other businesses such as Appalachian Renewable Power and Ohio Solar United Neighborhoods offered installment plans for solar electric and solar hot water systems for individual homes and businesses.

Sarah Straley, sales representative for Appalachian Renewable Power, said most of her customers are very satisfied with their solar electric systems.

2017 Ohio Pawpaw Festival logo, showing raccoon on branch eating a green pawpaw“We warranty the installation for 10 years, the panels will likely last 25, 30 years. So it’s just a silent partner producing electricity and they don’t really have to pay attention to it,” Straley said. “The only time they notice that it’s there is when they get their electric bill and it’s 2 dollars or they accrued a negative amount because it’s the summer and they’ve produced a lot [of energy] so they like that.”

It may be surprising to hear that Appalachian Ohio is so invested in sustainable energy given the area’s history with coal. For generations the coal industry has supplied jobs for hundreds of people in southern Ohio, allowing for food to be put on the table and a sense of peace that came along with the economic stability of having a dependable job. However, more Southern Ohio natives are making the switch to invest in sustainable energy.

Another opportunity for people to invest in solar energy at the Energy Village was the program called Solar Access. Sarah Conley Ballew, executive director of Upgrade Athens County, explained that once Solar Access is launched, it will allow people to invest in solar energy at the community level. Conley Ballew said the first initiative will be supplying a local Athens school with solar panels.

“Your subscription coupled with my subscription and your neighbors subscription and my neighbors subscription all together are helping to fund the total project,” Ballew explained. “It’s not simply a donation. You’re not just generously supporting solar with a donation in fact you actually see that money taken off of your utility bill.”

Alex Slaymaker, an Ohio University alum, was happy to see all the different ways people can invest in sustainable energy in Athens when she stopped in at the Energy Village tent. She’s confident in the ability of Athens to become a leader in sustainable energy.

“ I have a lot of faith that we’re going to move it forward and kind of become an example for other rural communities for how they can become hubs of solar innovation,” Slaymaker said.

There are opportunities for people of all economic backgrounds in Athens to invest in sustainable energy solutions thanks to the companies and organizations that aim to serve the people of this area. If you are interested in learning more about how Athens County is working toward becoming more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable, visit UpgradeOhio.org to learn more.

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About the Sustainability Studies Theme

Sustainability Studies integrates knowledge from many diverse disciplines to explore the complexity of global sustainability issues. Sustainability Studies asks students to think critically about the economic, social, political, cultural and scientific assumptions about humans’ relationships to the environment. Sustainability Studies invites critical exploration of a multitude of complex issues from the local to the global levels by engaging students in visionary conversation and collaborative, real-world problem solving. Sustainability Studies also invites students to explore their own personal values, and envision a meaningful, sustainable future. Sustainability Studies is a strong complement to a wide variety of majors, minors and certificates in Arts & Sciences as well as across Ohio University.

Climate Scientist, Dr. Michael Mann, to come to Ohio University this March

Dr. Michael E. Mann is a Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University and the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. Among his many honors, in June 2017, he received the seventh annual Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communications from Climate One at the Commonwealth Club. Mann was one of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Mann will be giving a public lecture on March 28, 2018, in the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.

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