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What started out for Anya Schoolman as a quixotic project with her son will take her to the White House today, where she’ll be honored as a “Champion of Change” for her solar-power advocacy work in D.C.
In 2007, Schoolman and her son Walter had the idea of adding solar power to their home, but discovered it was “too complicated and too expensive,” she says. So she got some neighbors together, hoping that by pooling their resources, they could simplify the process and reduce its cost.
That effort became the Mt. Pleasant Solar Coop. In 2009, Schoolman helped 45 houses in Mount Pleasant go solar. Now, she estimates, she’s personally assisted around 250 households in going solar. Her work has gone from neighborhood-level to citywide to national. The Mt. Pleasant Solar Coop and the other neighborhood solar groups she helped form banded together to found DC Solar United Neighborhoods, or DC SUN. Schoolman also started the nonprofit Community Power Network, which lends expertise to solar projects around the country.
The Champions of Change program honors community leaders in a variety of fields; past winners include veterans, education and technology advocates, and social justice activists. The ten honorees today all work on expanding solar power.
But Schoolman’s mostly in the dark when it comes to exactly what she’s being honored for. “I have no idea,” she says. “They told me nothing. They said congratulations, and I said, ‘Well, what does it mean?’ And they said, ‘Show up tomorrow.'” You can watch the ceremony, which is closed to the press, on the White House’s live stream here at 9 a.m.
Looking forward, Schoolman hopes that the Community Renewable Energy Act, which the D.C. Council passed in October but is still awaiting the formal issuing of regulations, will help expand her solar efforts. The bill will allow people to reduce their electricity bills by investing in solar installations that are not on their property—-allowing people who live in apartments, condos, or shaded areas to take advantage of solar power.
Schoolman recently helped a group of Ward 3 residents install solar power. She’s starting work with a Brookland group, as well as a project in College Park that includes both the University of Maryland and the city of College Park.
Photo from the Community Power Network