Helping Solar Business Grow

Fran Toler Goes Solar

A Case Study

Fran Toler understands the challenges of being a small business owner. She is one – a licensed provider of financial and investment advice. That’s why she appreciated the energy savings she could achieve by investing in solar panels for her home of 22 years in Mt. Rainier, Maryland. But when she first attempted to go solar several years ago, she encountered a number of hurdles and found that the cost was too high.

I have been interested in solar energy for decades, and on several different occasions I contacted companies, solicited bids, and each time got stalled in the process. Sometimes it was getting financing sometimes it was just the complexity of the decision, and not being sure I was making the right choices or choosing the right company. No one I knew was going solar yet and it involved a steep learning curve.

Getting Help from Neighbors

In 2014, a group of Hyattsville and Mt. Rainier residents started a neighborhood solar co-op to leverage their collective purchasing power to save money by going solar together. Fran found that joining the co-op had a number of advantages: 

First, I got to work with helpful people who explained the technical aspects and guided me through the process, but weren’t trying to sell me anything. Second, I got to efficiently and painlessly compare complex bids from multiple companies. Third, I got an astonishingly fantastic price, reducing the need for financing. I love getting a bargain!

Solar co-ops help small Businesses Grow 

As a small business owner herself, Fran appreciates the important role that solar co-ops can play in creating work and jobs for area solar installers:

I understand how difficult it can be to build capacity and a great reputation. [By being selected as an installer for a solar co-op, a solar company] can demonstrate and build capacity for larger project management in a setting where they are not stepping too far out of their comfort zone working with individual homeowners. They can also, through great service, make 50+ new contacts in their community who can spread the word about how great [their company] is, and how easy it was to get solar.

The Hyattsville/Mt. Rainier solar co-op ultimately closed with 80 members, and achieved more than a 30% discount from typical solar prices for its members. In total the group helped 19 homeowners go solar and facilitated the installation of 108 kW of new solar capacity.

Thanks to Community Power Network for conducting this interview and for letting us use it here.