BARC is nearing completion on Solar Garden to serve the area (part 1 of 3)

It’s not often this region is considered the “cutting edge” of progress, but, just as we are being mapped out as a possible route for natural gas infrastructure, an alternative, for at least a supplemental energy source, is available. Dave Clinton, Manager of Finance and Member Services told Allegheny Mountain Radio, about Community Solar, a new offering from BARC electric cooperative. Dave Clinton,

“The actual facility is in Rockbridge County. For those familiar with that area of Rockbridge County, it’s at the Kerr’s Creek exit, just off highway 64. The facility is the Old Highland Belle School that BARC electric cooperative acquired within the last year. We are completing construction of a solar facility there. It’s fairly large; it’s 550 kW. Sometimes it’s hard to relate to kW, but a typical home might use five, ten, maybe twenty kw at it’s peak, and so this facility is obviously much larger than that at 550kw. Those driving down there, take the Kerr’s Creek exit; you’ll see it. It’s the first of it’s kind. BARC Electric is pioneering this concept here in Virginia. I believe others are following it now.”

While this offering will not get you “off the grid”, it does mean you are participating in cleaner energy production, and may see some stability in fuel expenses when those costs rise.

What are some of the benefits to people becoming solar customers?

“A lot of people would like to have solar power.   It’s becoming more and more popular, but sometimes there’s barriers that people have to getting solar power at their home. Sometimes it’s as simple as their home doesn’t face in the right direction. It may be that there are trees on their property that they don’t want cut down. It may be that there just is a physical barrier to putting up the solar panels. But it may be simpler than that. They may not want to spend the amount of cash that it takes to buy a solar system, or borrow the amount of money that it takes to buy a solar system. So those are economic barriers, and those are physical barriers to buying a solar system that would go at your home. With this system it is literally as simple as making a phone call to BARC electric, or sometimes as easy as sending an e-mail.   There is no up front cash, and all you have to do is subscribe. Once you’re subscribed, we will guarantee a rate to you for twenty years, and then, a portion of your bill will be solar power.   You don’t have to deal with those other physical or economic barriers.”

So, whether or not this offering has come in time to reduce climate change will take some time to tell, but BARC believes it’s the right time for a step in that direction. Again Dave Clinton,

“People look at solar power differently. Most people realize that solar power today is more expensive than regular power, and that’s true with our project as well. Any one going into this has to understand that solar power is not yet competitive with regular sources of power. However we’ve got a way for people to compare their regular source of power, our rates with this project. The way we package these subscriptions is in blocks. And a block is fifty Kw hours per moth. So if someone subscribes to “a block” of power from this solar project. What that will mean is the first fifty kilowatt hours of power that they use every month will be from solar. And the remainder will come from our standard service. Now what does that mean to them? Are they better off? Are they worse off? How much better off?, How much worse off? Those are the questions that we deal with. And we have answer for that. For that block of power they pay four dollars and ninety-five cents. All right, but what does that mean?   Well, the answer is that that’s one dollar more than they would pay for standard service.  So a subscriber that wants one block will pay one dollar more per month for solar power than our standard rates.”

For part two in this series of stories on BARC’s new Community Solar, please stay tuned to AMR.


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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