For over a decade, MAREA has been a vibrant contributor in the renewable energy and sustainability community. We have impacted the lives and work of families, businesses and students, with our training and hands-on workshops, renewable energy installations, festivals, educational resources and events, and grassroots advocacy that has helped shape public policy. We are happy to share with you this brief list of highlights of all we have accomplished…so far!
Every step has been a group effort involving volunteers, donors and often partner organizations. Thank you for your continued support. Together, we are doing good things!
MAREA Accomplishment Highlights
Educational Resources and Events
MAREA has helped thousands of homeowners and small businesses successfully go solar, with educational resources including our annual Directory of Pennsylvania Solar Installers, our online calculator SunnyMoney for estimating costs and benefits of solar electric installations, our film Saving Solar: Keeping the Lights on with Battery Backup, and our publication, Pennsylvania Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Electricity. MAREA speakers regularly support community events, including STEM programs for school children and young girls, corporate sustainability events, senior and community centers, and regional conferences, festivals and expos.
In 2006, MAREA began holding monthly events at what is now the TEK Park Innovative Technology Campus in Breinigsville, PA. Always free and open to the public, past speakers include researchers and book authors (such as Michael Mann, Brian Czech, Bob Curry, Paul Rosier, Dork Sahagian, Charles Fishman, to name a few), do-it-yourselfers (living off-grid and in net-zero homes, for example), technology experts (e.g., solar designers & installers, wind and biomass professionals, battery manufacturers), energy efficiency experts (e.g., building performance, lighting, behavior), policy analysts and advocates (e.g., Penn Future, Citizens Climate Lobby), grid operation specialists (e.g., PJM, PPL), and a wide range of sustainability practioners in areas related to plant life, biodiversity, and environmental stewardship, and many more!
MAREA has also held three Production Electric Vehicle Shows at TEK Park, giving attendees the opportunity to see and drive electric vehicles and talk with owners about their experience, and most recently an alternatively-fueled yard equipment event where attendees tried out mowers, trimmers and scythes (yep!).
In the interest of education, camaraderie and intellectual consideration, MAREA holds bimonthly community book discussions on topics related to energy, sustainability and climate change. Well attended and thoughtfully moderated, these discussions provide meaningful opportunity for in-depth dialogue on topics central to our work.
School & University Programs
College students and instructors from schools across the region have gained “learning that lasts” in MAREA solar training sessions, held MAREA style—working together, outside, under the sun, and hands on! With funding from the Sustainable Energy Fund’s Solar Scholars initiative, MAREA delivered workshops at Muhlenburg College and Penn State Hazleton campuses, combining classroom training on the basics of solar design and operation with the student-driven ground-up installation of 3.2 kW operational solar electric systems.
Also in partnership with the Sustainable Energy Fund, MAREA delivers a three-day Solar Camp at Energypath, held annually at regional campuses, including Lehigh University, Villanova University, DeSales University, Scranton University, Albright College and Penn State University. MAREA instructors teach solar design basics while leading students in the surprising hands-on construction of a fully operational temporary grid-tied 5.4 kW system! Campers, often teachers themselves, appreciate the confidence they gain from the unique hands-on approach.
A transportable solar electric lab, dubbed Sunny & Share and developed by MAREA, is a one-of-a-kind setup with standard full-scale components to give students hand-on experience with grid-tie, off-grid and ac-coupled battery backup systems. Students from Penn State’s Society for Energy Engineers sponsored an overfilled weekend workshop using the system, which was also an invited demonstration at a national American Solar Energy Society conference.
Renewable Energy Installations for the Community
MAREA was an early leader for renewable energy projects in the region. Winning grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, MAREA installed early demonstration systems at highly visible locations–solar (on firehouse in Kempton, PA) and small wind (at Kempton Community Center).
More recently, MAREA completed the installation of a large-scale solar hot water system at the Opportunity House in Reading, PA, that provides domestic hot water for showers, cooking and childcare services provided to those in need. The pressurized-glycol system includes 18 roof-mounted collectors, two 800 gallon storage tanks and eight heat exchangers. The abundant hot water provided by this system reduces natural gas usage and related emissions. And it saves money, freeing resources for much-needed valuable community services. The system was built at no cost to the Opportunity House, with funding from the MetEd Sustainable Energy Fund and Berks County Community Foundation, and material and labor donations from many area businesses and firms.
Training and Workshops
In keeping with our learning-by-doing approach, MAREA partnered with a solar installer to conduct workshops as part of customer-site installations. Participants worked on all aspects of a solar installation—from trenching and wire pulling, to rack and module mounting, to network communications. Many students from these projects are now themselves working in the solar field—with installers, in the offices of developers, in the field doing off-grid projects in Africa and Jamaica, or teaching others.
Regional solar installers filled a MAREA Saving Solar workshop on the design and installation of battery backup systems. Develop in cooperation with East Penn Manufacturing and Deka Batteries, the Saving Solar course was approved for 8 NABCEP continuing education credits.
Advocacy and Public Policy
MAREA is an informed and determined voice on issues related to renewable energy police and regulation. In 2012, Vera Cole, president of MAREA, prevailed in Commonwealth Court to require that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection release records all details about solar rebate awards. It was cited as Pennsylvania’s 5th most important right-to-know case of the year. Access to this information has allowed the solar community to research, learn and connect in support of important shared solar interests. MAREA subsequently published and made free to public, PA Sunshine Counts: Our Common Solar Wealth, a comprehensive analysis of records obtained for more than 7,000 solar electric systems receiving PA Sunshine Rebates.
Representing MAREA, Vera Cole has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered (Solar Advocates Fight Utilities Over Grid Access) and Radio Times (The Latest in Solar Energy Developments Nationally and Locally), and the DOE Sunshot Podcast, Solar Energy Development in Pennsylvania: Sustainability, Financial and Government Perspectives.
MAREA works closely in support of other organizations doing renewable energy and energy efficiency advocacy work, through many channels. MAREA co-sponsors E2’s Pennsylvania Clean Energy Map and Lehigh Valley Green Drinks, is a current a member of the Clean Power PA Coalition and a stakeholder in the DOE SunShot project, Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future. MAREA routinely files comments on issues before policy makers and regulators, including petitions and raising signatures.
Pennsylvania Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival
Starting in 2005 and for seven years running, MAREA held a spectacular three-day Pennsylvania Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival in beautiful Kempton, PA. With over 8,000 visitors, 100 vendors & exhibitors and 60 or more lectures & educational workshops, it was the first event of its type in the region. These Festivals helped establish MAREA’s role in the community as a trusted source of renewable energy information and resources, and as the place to find kindred spirits seeking to live sustainably. In the words of one first-time Festival visitor, “I feel like I’ve found the mothership!”