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January 16, 2018 • Headline News
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Local team named ‘Sustainable Champion of the Year’

Within one month, the team founded and widely promoted the Solarize Batesville/Oldenburg initiative and provided three information sessions to some 64 area homeowners. By December 31, their efforts will have resulted in a doubling of solar homes in and around Batesville and Oldenburg – with two new solar installations in the small town of Oldenburg itself.

Lohrum Electrical installs solar panelsSUBMITTED PHOTO
Pictured is a home where Lohrum Electrical and his crew are putting panels on south facing roofs.

On Saturday, December 2, the efforts of Solarize Batesville/Oldenburg and the twelve other solarize teams that comprise Solarize Indiana* were recognized by Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) with its “Sustainable Champion of the Year” award. HEC’s annual Greening the Statehouse event drew between 400 and 500 participants from across the state. The efforts of the all-volunteer Solarize Indiana teams inspired a standing ovation.

Whalen, a retired educator, could not join the other team leaders at the statehouse to receive the award and experience the standing ovation due to prior commitments. She is thrilled, however, that so many more Indiana homes are now benefiting from clean energy. She will continue to use her organizing skills in 2018 to offer similar opportunities to others in the Greensburg and Brookville areas. She added, “I have learned so much from our local contractor, Micah Lohrum, watching him install the panels on a few homes where I took photos and getting my questions answered.”

Joan and Joe Stephens were the first couple in Batesville to express their desire to install solar panels. Joan even joined the local solarizing team to convince others to consider using solar energy to off-set some of their energy needs. Joan is very satisfied with the way these solar panels are operating, she reported, “It is a joy to see the meter running backwards! Being part of the Solarize project made going solar much easier than researching and deciding on our own. It is great to do something for the environment and save money.”

Steve Kristoff and Renana Gross are the first ones in the town of Oldenburg to join the statewide initiative. Steve commented, “We decided to get solar panels because we like the idea of doing something good for the environment while lowering our electric bill at the same time. Right now was a good time to do it since we can beat the deadline for reverse metering and the Solarize Batesville/Oldenburg group had done a lot of the up-front work by picking a reliable, proficient contractor. We expect our set-up to supply about half of our electricity in an average month.” Both of these homeowners will participate in the solar home tours being planned for March, 2018.

By December 31, the efforts of the thirteen local solarize teams will have resulted in an approximately 20% increase in rooftop solar in Indiana – a stunning achievement. According to Solarize Indiana founder and director Madi Hirschland, “The Solarize Batesville/Oldenburg team’s speed and dedication have been truly inspiring. The team surely demonstrates how a small group of dedicated individuals, driven by the desire to care for their children, their neighbors and the earth that sustains us can make a real difference – and quickly!”

Solarize Indiana and the local Solarize teams mobilized in response to recently passed legislation that lowers the financial incentive for rooftop solar. On May 2, 2017, Governor Holcomb signed into law Senate Bill 309, which reduces the rate that utility companies pay for excess energy that homeowners and others with solar panels sell back to the grid. To avoid the financial impact of the new law, property owners had to sign a solar contract by October 19, 2017.

Determined to make the best of a bad bill, volunteers across the state sprung into action. A new all-volunteer group – Solarize Indiana - formed quickly. By late July, it had identified, trained and equipped teams in eleven regions across the state, from South Bend to Batesville / Oldenburg. By mid-August these teams and two others had organized 65 solar information sessions that educated over 1400 Hoosiers about the costs and benefits of rooftop solar and how the local solarize programs could help homeowners install panels. This statewide grassroots effort made national news, after a team of four from New York and Chicago came to Oldenburg and Batesville to profile Sr. Claire and film an information session at the Batesville public library.

For most prospective solar owners, deciding to install panels, selecting an installer and accepting the products and pricing they offer can be daunting. Most households lack the information or resources to assess what’s a fair price, which solar panels are high quality, and whether installers are reliable – and resources to help with this are hard to find. Solarize Indiana and Solarize Batesville/Oldenburg made this much easier: they issued a request for proposals to 30 solar installers, selected those who were reputable and offered the best price/product packages, and then negotiated prices and products further on behalf of prospective solar owners. However, the solar contract is solely between the solar installer and the property owner – who is free to try to find a better deal elsewhere. Solarize Indiana including Solarize Batesville/Oldenburg are all-volunteer efforts with no financial stake.

In response to the tremendous interest it encountered, Solarize Batesville/Oldenburg is gearing up for a second Solarize phase in 2018. Solar home tours are being planned for selected Sundays in March, 2018, to kick-off a new round of home roof-top installations. These will be offered in the cities, or towns, where the 2017 installations took place, namely, Batesville, Oldenburg, and Greensburg.

For information about the 2018 solar home tours or the 2018 solar information sessions, contact Sr. Claire Whalen at

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