HUNTINGTON — Dan Conant, the founder of Solar Holler, said one of his main goals when he started the business 6 years ago was to relentlessly pursue innovative approaches that bring solar within reach of the people and places who have always been left out.
“It no longer takes tens of thousands of dollars to install solar panels on a residential home or small business,” Conant said. “Everyone can own their own power system.”
Conant said in the beginning the company started working with nonprofit organizations across the state.
“We have been working with churches, libraries and social services organizations, including homeless shelters across West Virginia to make solar affordable for them,” he said.
Last summer, Solar Holler completed the largest solar panel project in Huntington at Harmony House. The company installed 115 solar panels, which Harmony House officials called “a game-changing project” for the nonprofit organization that helps the homeless because it estimated the organization would save as much as $130,000 in electricity costs over 25 years.
“What was really cool about that project in particular was our ability to have a lasting impact on organizations that are doing so much good in their communities,” Conant said. “One of the most gratifying things for me is that when we work with community organizations, we know that the energy savings are going back towards supporting their missions. If it’s a library, that means more educational programs.e’ve done work with homeless shelters, where the energy savings directly support the social programs that are so crucial. That’s the most rewarding part for me.”
Conant said with that project Solar Holler did everything from the modeling, design and engineering to having their master electricians on site to hook up the solar panels.
In 2018, Conant estimated the company had done around 100 solar panel installations across the state on homes, businesses and nonprofits.
“Across Appalachia, we’re working with dozens of families this year to help them mine the sun for clean energy to affordably power their homes and lives,” he said. “We are making it easier and affordable to all.”
This year, in March, Solar Holler is working on an even larger project in Huntington. The Huntington Area Habitat for Humanity has an estimated 185 solar panels that generate 53.65 kilowatts of power. More panels are will be installed on the Restore and administrative offices in the 200 block of 3rd Avenue.
“We anticipate a savings of over $150,000 over the next 25 years,” said Dayna Carter, resource development manager at Habitat.
Carter says a benefactor helped the nonprofit fund the project.
“This helps us to build more houses for those in need,” she said.
David Michael, executive director and CEO of the Huntington Area Habitat for Humanity says the savings will allow for the organization to build three houses.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do that without this energy savings,” he said. “All the costs savings help benefit the housing ministry in the end.”
Michael says the nonprofit organization has built four homes in the area that also had solar panels installed on the roofs.
“We did solar panels off a sub-division in East Pea Ridge and two in Huntington, one in the 2500 block of 9th Avenue and one in the 1200 block of Jefferson Avenue,” he said. “The electricity costs savings for these residential homes brings a great added value to each of them.”
Leah Cunningham, the community outreach director at Solar Holler, says traditionally West Virginia has always had lower energy prices compared to the rest of the country.
“However, we are seeing those electricity prices going up and up,” she said. “So the interest in solar panels continues to go up and up as well.”
Conant said the company offers energy analysis, financing, engineering and installation, which is making it easier and more affordable for everyone.
“We have loan programs with no up-front costs,” he explained. “We use our deep knowledge of energy policy and financing to build programs that work. We are a rare breed-a fully licensed electrical contracting firm with policy and financing expertise, a finger on the pulse of cutting edge technology, and an absolute commitment to using the power of solar energy to revitalize Appalachian communities.”
Conant says solar replaces the traditional power costs that continue to increase with a fixed solar payment that eventually more than pays for itself and it the end saves the homeowner, business owner or organization money over the 25-year span of the solar panels.
Conant says Solar Holler continues to work with Coalfield Development in Wayne County to train the workforce that they need to meet the needs of this quickly growing industry.
“We have 60 employees and are growing due to the unprecedented demand in the state,” he said. “We worked with partners to launch the first solar job training and apprenticeship program in West Virginia – bringing jobs and opportunities to the coalfields. Now, all across West Virginia, our teams of trained and talented electricians and installers are building beautiful solar systems that are remaking our state for all West Virginians.”
Solar Holler has offices in Huntington and Shepherdstown, West Virginia. For more information about Solar Holler, visit the online website at www.solarholler.com.