Solar Array at Stourbridge Project

An image of the rooftop solar units on The Cooperage Project in Honesdale.

The Northeast Environmental Partners named the Stourbridge Solar Array on the roof of The Stourbridge Project Business Incubator and Co-Working Space in Honesdale as Project of the Year in 2021.

Like most Wayne Tomorrow! supported efforts, The Stourbridge Solar Project began as an idea – to combine innovation, sustainability and education in one project that would be accessible to the public. Jack Barnett, former president and current project manager for the Clean Energy Co-Op (CEC), brought the idea for a solar array on the roof of the former 1928 school building to the Wayne County Commissioners in 2018.

 He proposed a modest-sized, photovoltaic array (33 kW) that would tie into an educational kiosk, where visitors to the Stourbridge Project could see the system functioning in real time. The initial plan called for funding from a state grant program to install the array, which would be owned by the Clean Energy Co-op. For its part, the county would lock in a long-term energy rate for the 25-year expected life of the project. It all nearly derailed when the partners were unable to obtain the necessary grants to make the plan financially viable. 

Barnett said CEC saw the project as important to the community and pursued an alternative means of funding it. Instead of the grant, CEC created a limited liability corporation and courted a business investor that could provide the needed financial capital in return for the lion-share of the available tax credits from the sustainable energy project. The LLC, rather than the Clean Energy Coop, would own the system. The county still gets the same deal. The project was completed and brought online late last year. 

Sustainable Energy Education & Development Support (SEEDS) funded the kiosk, the Wayne County Arts Alliance purchased the supplies for the intricate educational display, and the Stourbridge Project’s Maker-in-Residence Lisa Glover designed the visually expressive display. Public, private and non-profit partners all worked closely to complete the Solar Array and Kiosk, along with a video documentary about solar energy. 

In naming it a Project of the Year, The Northeast Environmental Partners, which is comprised of the PA Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, PA Environmental Council, PPL Corporation, Procter & Gamble Paper Products Company, and Wilkes University said: “Led by the Clean Energy Cooperative, the project stakeholders were able to utilize community knowledge and experience acquired from similar past projects to create a cost-effective plan for the array that was supported by numerous for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and by Wayne County.” 

The Stourbridge Solar Project embodies the collaborative spirit that permeates Wayne Tomorrow! not only because of the number of agencies and organizations involved, but also because The Stourbridge Project represents the first major collaborative undertaking of this broad network of partners. The county owns the historic school building, and Wayne Economic Development Corporation developed the project through funding from a long list of cooperating agencies like the Appalachian Regional Commission, US Department of Agriculture, the state Department of Community & Economic Development and many more. The Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance oversees the programming at the site.

Both of these projects provided the medium through which all these cooperating organizations could build the kind of trust that now stands at the heart of Wayne Tomorrow! and its efforts to cultivate a vibrant future for everyone. The Wayne County Commissioners, representatives from the Clean Energy Co-op, SEEDS (Sustainable Energy Education & Development Support), Wayne Tomorrow! and the Wayne Economic Development Corp. unveiled the educational component of the Stourbridge Solar Project on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.

 The panel not only shows the real-time function of the 33 kW system, it also explains how the energy from the sun is captured by the photo-voltaic panels on the roof, stored and used by the building and even how it connects to the local electricity grid and enhances resiliency. Stourbridge Maker-in-Residence Lisa Glover said she created the informational panel with a lot of help from the various partners involved in the solar project, relying on the experts for the explanations and using equipment available at the Stourbridge Project to create the three dimensional elements. 

The Wayne County Arts Alliance provided the funding for the materials used in its construction. The laser-cut elements include trees bearing the names of the partner organizations, and a replica of the 1928 school building that houses the Stourbridge Project Business Incubator and Co-working Space as well as the solar array,