Our Solar Journey

Our Solar Journey –

We’ve Arrived!

In what feels like the mists of time, the early 2000s, Monan’s Rill began talking community solar. Not solar hot water (some of our houses have that), or single-family home roof solar (we have single family homes but they are all owned collectively), but honest-to-goodness community solar, that could power most or all of our electrical energy needs. 

Where to put it? How to pay for it? Who will maintain it? On-grid or off-grid? Some power or full power? Is maybe Sonoma Clean Power enough? 

We delegated a committee – the Water, Energy, and Technology (WET) Committee – to explore these questions. They gathered energy use data, considered placement, looked for a designer/installer who had experience with community solar (navigating the legal and technical requirements at both county government and utility levels), and talked to the rest of us about what they were learning. 

Along the way, we got sidelined or waylaid by multiple community issues, but we never lost our vision. The Tubbs Fire of 2017, which forced us to evacuate for over two weeks, was distraction on a new and perilous scale. But it also motivated us to address climate resiliency in most of what we do. In early 2019, the entire community approved the WET Committee plan to install a 38,000-watt, 110-module array in a clearing to the south of our community workshop. The array will provide approximately 80-85% of ALL of our electrical energy needs! 

It took until now to get it installed, mostly because we had to work our way through PG&E’s multiple divisions and departments and red tape and transformers to get to our very own PTO (“permission to operate”) moment. Now we are here! 

We are not off grid (maybe someday!), but aggregated net metering allows us to collect the sun’s energy at one site and use it in multiple places, including our HUB (community building) and our homes. It feels so good to turn the lights on now! (Though of course we try to only do so when necessary.)  

We are feeling so much gratitude for Jeff Clearwater and his team at Village Power Design, and for Joanie’s, Gabriel’s, and Chris’s patience and persistence over the past two decades, getting us to this point. And now it’s time to celebrate the sun! 

Joanie, Chris, and Gabriel giving us a socially-distanced solar album cover.
Solar power / girl power!