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With solar and more, Stourbridge Project looks to future


HONESDALE, PA — The optimism was palpable at the Stourbridge Project during an open house on Tuesday, July 30. Wayne County residents attended the event to consider investing in a project to install solar panels on the building’s roof.

In addition to explaining how the installation would be financed and completed, however, speakers used the event as an opportunity to boast accolades and celebrate what they see as signs of “progress” in the county over the past several years.

The Stourbridge Project, a co-working space and business incubator, provides the community with access to the technology and resources necessary to run a business or test out a business idea. In 2018, it won the Pennsylvania Economic Development Project of the Year Award.

“I know in some quarters, for some reason which I cannot fathom, ‘progressive’ seems to have become a bad word to some people; I don’t know what’s wrong with progress myself,” Wayne County Commissioner Wendell Kay said. Along with the Clean Energy Co-op, the county commissioners are working with Stourbridge to complete the solar installation.

Susan Shaffer, director of the Stourbridge Project, expounded on Kay’s point, saying that the changes in Wayne County’s economy over past years have brought the area to a
“tipping point” for collaborative business models. She mentioned successes such as the local 4-H team, which recently won an award after developing an agricultural technology product while using Stourbridge’s space and resources.

“That to me is one of the most perfect examples of why you as a county or community invest in a rural incubator,” Shaffer said. “I really had to champion [the Stourbridge Project] because at first everybody thought of it as just space… it’s much more than that.”

Clean Energy Co-op President Jack Barnett provided the details about how the solar system would work, and how to pay for the $63,000 project. In addition to attracting investors, the co-op is also applying for a USDA grant to help defray the cost. Barnett said that the group’s past four grant applications have been successful.
The co-op will be financing the project through a 25-year power-purchase agreement, in which the co-op sells the energy generated by the solar system to Stourbridge at a rate typically lower than standard utility costs.

Like Stourbridge, the co-op is award-winning itself, receiving national recognition in 2016 as the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s Best Community Renewables Project.

The co-op was founded in 2013 and has helped The Cooperage Project, Anthill Farm and Willow Wisp Organic Farm all install solar systems on their roofs. Barnett said the co-op is getting more ambitious this year, taking on two projects instead of one.

The other solar project is at the Damascus farm of George Von Oeshcler, a former New York City cop and firefighter, whom The River Reporter recently profiled: www.bit.ly/oeshcler
Investors can expect to see a modest return on their investment in these kinds of projects,

Barnett stressed this point.  “The return is often in benefits that aren’t financial,” Barnett said. “The community benefits, the environment benefits, society benefits.”


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