Co-op member completes long-held dream to go solar

Temple Sinai Solar Co-op member and Bethesda resident Robyn Miller-Tarnoff first got interested in solar in high school when she attended a parade featuring solar-powered cars. This sparked an interest for Robyn in the impact various sources of energy have on the environment.

Fast forward several years. Robyn’s synagogue, Temple Sinai, decided to install solar on its building. It worked with several other area congregations who were also interested in going solar. Temple Sinai had a 124 kW solar system installed on its roof last summer.

But, Robyn and others at the synagogue wanted to do more. Using the synagogue’s installation as a “teachable moment” they launched a solar co-op to spread solar not just to congregation members, but to friends and family as well. They worked with MD SUN and DC SUN, as well as with Congregation Beth El in Bethesda and St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill to recruit and educate co-op members.

In total, Robyn estimates more than 225 people were educated about solar by the co-op through information sessions and peer-to-peer contact.

“It felt like a reunion,” Robyn said of the info session, noting how many of her friends and neighbors attended.

More than 50 homes went solar with the group, including Robyn’s.

She had a 12 kW system installed on her roof and estimates that it will offset just about all of her electricity needs.

“We could invest in a mutual fund where you don’t know where your money is going,” she said. “If you’re buying solar, it’s the ultimate local investment.”

Robyn opted for blue panels so that they stand out on her roof. She wants the panels to be a conversation starter. The conversation has already started within Robyn’s own family. She said she inspired a cousin who lives in California to look into starting a similar solar co-op group in her neighborhood.