Subscribe to Make Magazine Today!

The community house at Westwood, with lots of solar thermal collectors on top

Here’s a case study about a community in North Carolina building their own power. In part:

When most people think about solar strategies they generally consider using them in their own homes. But cooperative or community systems offer a lot of potential for substantially reducing energy consumption while providing convenient, reliable domestic hot water, space heating, or electricity for larger groups of people in a neighborhood or community setting. This approach is fairly routine in some European countries, but less common in the United States, although this is beginning to change with an increasing number of community-supported energy initiatives in some locations. This approach could–and probably should–be a primary strategy in community responses to peak oil everywhere.

Here’s the neighborhood’s homepage, and here’s North Carolina Green Building analysis on the project. Let me know about any other projects seeking to make energy independence that you’ve found in the comments.

Luke Iseman

Luke Iseman

Luke Iseman makes stuff, some of which works. He invites you to drive a bike for a living (, stop killing your garden (, and live in an off-grid shipping container (



    What I would like to see is people coming together to build a “solar panel park”, where people share on the cost of dc/ac converters, grid tying, and maintenance. Each participant still buys and owns their own solar panels, but no longer has to invest in everything needed to install it on their house or tying it to the grid, making buying and owning solar panels alot cheaper. There has to be some sort of measurement to find out how much each panel/owner produces, and a way for the owner to eighter get paid, or better, to have the power produced deducted from his power bill.

    One could also place the solar panel park anywhere in the country, if one makes a deal with the nearest utility to tie it to the grid throught them, and using their accounting system for administering the power produced (for a fee). The argument for doing that is stronger if you live in a part of the world where the conditions for installing solar is poor (like in, say, northern Norway).