Susan Auslander, an 89-year-old retiree from Redding, Connecticut, took it upon herself to challenge her retirement community’s dismissal of solar power.
What started as a hobby for Auslander (pictured above) eventually turned into a five-year campaign. Undeterred by those who doubted her, Auslander persisted in her efforts to promote solar energy.
Meadow Ridge, the care community where Auslander resides, recently announced plans to install solar panels over two parking lots and one building. The installation of these 1,344 panels is projected to offset 607.2 metric tons of carbon emissions annually, according to The New York Times. The panels will benefit the community’s 285 apartments.
Auslander, a former public relations professional and League of Women Voters member, has a rich history of engagement. Her mother once ran for the state senate.
Meadow Ridge had a substantial electricity expense exceeding $1 million annually. Electricity was one of the community’s largest costs.
When Auslander noticed this, she made solar panel installation her next political activism project.
Auslander’s solar committee
Auslander formed a solar committee with other residents. Despite initial resistance from the management, Auslander and her fellow residents rallied and engaged with a local solar provider, Verogy.
The solar committee explored financing options, such as low-cost funding from the state’s Green Bank, as well as tax credits and grants from the local utility company. In addition, the committee organized visits to nearby buildings that had already embraced solar power.
But despite Auslander’s consistent efforts, the facility’s executive director repeatedly dismissed solar energy as impractical.
However, when the facility’s management changed in December 2021, an opportunity arose. Auslander wasted no time in advocating for her cause, impressing the new executive director with her determination. She finally succeeded in getting solar panels installed at Meadow Ridge earlier this fall.
However, Auslander and her solar committee see their work as unfinished. They aim to promote solar energy in other retirement communities in the area, including those with shared ownership or management.
Solar panels in retirement communities
More and more retirement homes are recognizing the benefits of switching to solar. The OceanView retirement community in Falmouth, Maine, installed solar panels back in 2014. The panels have lowered residents’ electric bills to as little as $15 per month.
A notable challenge with solar installation in retirement communities is the different energy needs of each apartment. A Queensland University of Technology study found that apartments consume differing amounts of electricity depending on insulation and the types of heaters used.
As a result, solar installers cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach. They need to customize their installations to accommodate the different apartment types.
Thankfully, this challenge isn’t too big for Auslander’s Meadow Ridge community.
Image Source: Hunter College