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Published: July 22, 2021

Molly Solar Panel

When it comes to sun facts, did you know:

  • Since 2014, the average cost of solar PV (photovoltaic) panels has dropped nearly 70%;
  • Solar panel efficiency has increased from 6% in 1954 to over 40% on high-efficiency panels today;
  • It is projected that more than one in seven U.S. homes will have a rooftop solar system by 2030.

Bottom line, from the U.S. Department of Energy, “Solar power is more affordable, accessible, and prevalent in the United States than ever before.”

Like many cities, Oberlin and the surrounding area are part of this green trend.

Local Spotlight on Solar

Linda Arbogast, Oberlin’s Sustainability Coordinator, said it used to be businesses and homeowners installed solar panels because it “was the right thing to do. Now it makes sense financially.”

Five years ago a group of Oberlin residents spearheaded a countywide cooperative effort to offer solar incentives to Lorain County residents and business. Those efforts and others, including streamlining the permit process, have paid off, and today Oberlin has approximately three dozen homes and a half-dozen businesses that have electric powered in part or in whole by solar.

“It’s awesome,” said Linda, whose home in Brownhelm Township has solar panels that provide about 80% of her family’s electricity.

Oberlin College is the largest local consumer with a 2.27MW solar array near its North Athletic Fields. The array produces around 3,000,000 kWh per year and about 12 percent of the college’s electricity usage.

Three local projects are currently underway, including one at Kendal.

Solar arrays are being installed on Oberlin City Schools new PreK-5th School and the Oberlin Community Services building. The arrays, supported by the city’s Sustainable Reserve Fund, will provide about 80% of electricity.

Kendal is in the process of adding solar panels to a carport renovation/new construction project in its Parking Lot 7. The solar panels will also be used to support a “green” outdoor lighting project in line with the International Dark-Sky Association by reducing glare and light pollution.

The community is excited to add solar, but “we want to see how it works” before committing to additional projects, said Rey Carrion, Kendal’s Facility Services Director.

While this is Kendal’s first stab at solar project, the life plan community is rooted in environmentally sustainable principles. Expansion, renovations, and other green projects over the years include:

  • Geothermal heating and cooling in cottage renovations
  • Garage renovations that accommodate outlets for charging electric cars (A recent survey of residents found 42 Prius owners, plus a handful of other EV owners);
  • The establishment of the accredited John Bartram Arboretum, which ensures the 100+ acre community is conserved as a place where trees and other plants are grown for enjoyment, education and as a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

“We are very conscious of the environment and want to be a good citizen and follow the city’s Climate Action Plan,” Rey said.

(By the way, I live in Silverton, a village in the Cincinnati area, and my husband and I signed up for “2021 Solarize Silverton,” an incentive campaign similar to Oberlin’s in 2016. As I wrote this blog, rooftop electricians were installing our 27-solar panel array. Once complete, we expect solar will provide about 90% of our electricity.)  

TLC of Our Earth

Of course, not everyone can use or afford solar panels. Although the price has come down and the IRS and some states offer tax credits and incentives, the cost starts at around $15,000.

But we all can do something, which is the premise of Paul Greenberg’s new book “The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint.”

New York Times reviewer Heather Hansman writes, “Greenberg’s writing is clear and concise. Each section starts with easy tips, like keeping your lids on your pots to conserve energy, then wades into bigger, trickier concepts, like the morality and impact of having children.”

Many of us could make our own list, from things we already do, like using our own shopping bags, to things on our to-do list, like installing water conservation devices on our toilets and showers.


Oberlin, a Great Place to Call Home

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Molly’s byline and photo:

Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.