Grid Scale, Off-Grid, Solar

Worker-Owned, Operated Solar Firm Debuts

Bill Stillinger, long-time director of renewables and environmental planning at Northeast Utilities (NU), has been recruited to become the first General Manager of Pioneer Valley PhotoVoltaics, trademarked (PV)2 , a worker-owned solar energy design and installation cooperative headquartered in Greenfield.

Greenfield, Massachusetts – March 18, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] After a 27-year career with NU, Stillinger was actively exploring options to utilize his wealth of experience to continue to promote use of Renewable Energy. “Stillinger will be catalyst for change at (PV)2,” said Lynn Benander, co-director of Greenfield’s Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), who has been instrumental in the organization’s progress. “Effective March 1, Stillinger will take over the reins. His charge is to help develop (PV)2 into a sustainable enterprise in Franklin County.” “Pioneer Valley PhotoVoltaics will offer high quality designs and installations of solar electric and hot water systems backed up by a strong maintenance program,” said Stillinger. “But we must go beyond that – we will demonstrate that Renewable Energy sources like solar help build healthy community infrastructure and enhance local capacity for governance. We want to promote models of sustainability and democratic learning at the community level.” (PV)2 is the brainchild of Don Campbell with inspiration from Rich Gottlieb, founder of Sunnyside Solar in Vermont. In the spring of 2000, the two were walking near Campbell’s off-grid house discussing opportunities in Renewable Energy and ways to boost area job creation. “It was like the last puzzle piece dropped into place,” said Campbell. “From that conversation I was inspired to found a solar business – but not a traditional top-down company. My vision was to create a worker-owned business that promotes Renewable Energy and one structured to keep equity in our community.” (PV)2 incorporated as a worker-owned cooperative in May 2002. Each member of the cooperative invests US$10,000 to buy his or her “share” of the company. The worker-owner board directs the activities of the company and shares in its profits. Co-op members have been busy making trips throughout New England to see solar cells, modules and related systems manufactured and assembled. They met with area planners, businesses and governments and were encouraged to persist. Last fall, (PV)2 moved into offices at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC) on Wells Street in Greenfield. Recently, largely through the efforts of Benander and others at CDI, (PV)2 was awarded a US$350,000 incentive grant from Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust (MRET). “The MRET Cluster Grant is designed to support the installation of grid-tied PV systems in designated areas,” said MRET’s Sam Nutter. (PV)2 is implementing this program in Franklin County plus the towns of Amherst, Athol, and Phillipston. MRET provides valuable support for economic development and solar energy development. With financial assistance to help with start up costs and money to provide significant financial rebates to its customers, (PV)2 decided that it was time to formalize its presence in the community.