Above: Tina Wilkinson in front of her home, with solar panels on the roof. Photo courtesy of TGA Communications, LLC

Dunwoody resident Jason Metzger developed a deep commitment to the environment as a young boy in Long Island, N.Y.

“My mother always had us leave the beach with everything we brought with us,” he said, “and then pick up what other people left behind.”

Even as a youngster, Metzger said, he “understood recycling.”

Metzger, who is an environmental engineer, joined Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division in 2004 to better align his career with his passion for the environment. In addition, he serves on the city of Dunwoody’s (all volunteer) Sustainability Committee.

Tina Wilkinson points out the solar energy controller that works in conjunction with Georgia Power service at her residence.
Photo courtesy of TGA Communications, LLC.

Dunwoody resident Tina Wilkinson loves things that help protect the environment, too. She wants to do that by encouraging homeowners to generate their own electricity. Last year, Wilkinson started a new program called Solarize Dunwoody that was intended to increase the number of homes in Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and Brookhaven that use solar power.

As a United Methodist Church Earthkeeper, Wilkinson believes renewable energy is crucial. Earthkeepers focus on community improvements, such as cleaning toxic waste or creating community gardens. However, promoting solar energy has become Wilkinson’s passion.

“The really great thing I like about solar is the sunlight comes down to all of us,” Wilkinson said. “It’s readily available and that means there are no transportation costs. Solar is not perfect, but it’s better than the alternatives — especially for our environment.”

Before the start of Solarize Dunwoody last September, similar programs were already working in Athens, Decatur and in the Tybee-Savannah area, says Wilkinson. She learned what she could from other users and liked the idea of a solar crowd-sourcing campaign to lower purchasing costs.

Crowd-sourcing programs, like the Dunwoody campaign, allow residents to go in together on the costs, and refer to ‘the more the merrier’ model. The more people who sign solar power contracts for homes or businesses, the lower the price will be for all. But, even with multiple volume discounts, solar does not pay for itself (yet).

There are current and potential benefits for homeowners who invest in solar systems, but that’s only part of what attracts them. “Most of our supporters are as concerned about the environment as they are about tax cuts or selling energy back to the electrical companies,” said Metzger.

He explained that, for an added cost, the Tesla PowerWall is available for storing excess solar energy. The rechargeable home battery system can then be used to provide power when solar generation is insufficient to meet the home’s power needs.

“The storage unit has been popular and most residents who signed contracts have included at least one of these battery storage units for their home or business,” said Metzger.

More than 250 residents requested free evaluations and about 40 (throughout Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Sandy Springs) signed up for solar-panel installations.

Dunwoody is one of three active solarize campaigns in the area. Interested residents in areas contiguous with Atlanta can obtain information and purchase products through the Solarize Atlanta program, and Solarize Carrollton-Carroll brings the same opportunity to Carroll County residents.

It’s no surprise that Georgia is among the top 10 states for solar energy, according to energysage.com. The state “… has also seen increased growth in the past two years as prices have plummeted (a nearly 70 percent drop in cost over the past five years), qualifying it for [a] 2017 top growth ranking.”

In fact, “… in years to come, Georgia will have a strong opportunity to dethrone North Carolina as the top [southern] solar state,” their energy-dedicated website says.

For more information about the Solarize Dunwoody, Solarize Atlanta and Solarize Carrollton-Carroll programs, visit solarcrowdsource.com, click on Solarize Campaigns and scroll to Active Campaigns.

Judi Kanne

Judi Kanne is a public health communications consultant and contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.