NIRPC Program for Boosting Solar in NWI Is Focus of Environmental Meetups

solar-panel-array-belonging-to-Rich-HerrRich Herr initially turned to solar energy as the primary energy source for his home in Valparaiso because he wanted to lower his electric bill. Two years later, he has definitely achieved that goal. “The actual cost of my electricity over the past 12 months was only about $100,” he says. Spending the money to go solar was, in his opinion, “the best investment I’ve done,” particularly given the current rate of return in alternative investments.

Herr is not alone in his interest in using this abundant energy resource that hits our homes and businesses every day. A drive around Valparaiso and other Northwest Indiana communities shows that other people are opting to use solar. Proponents of the renewable energy source point out that enough sunlight falls on the earth in just one minute to meet world energy demands for a whole year.

Right now is an especially good time to switch to solar. Solarize Northwest Indiana, a new program offered through the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, is designed to make solar energy more affordable and accessible to area residents. By taking advantage of volume discounts, federal tax credits, and income for energy provided to the grid, it is possible for program participants to realize substantial savings. Kathy Luther, NIRPC’s Director of Environmental Management who is overseeing Solarize Northwest Indiana in partnership with South Shore Clean Cities, wants to help as many people as possible take advantage of the program before it ends in June. “We don’t want to turn anyone away,” she explains.

To help educate people about the Solarize program, Luther will be speaking at two upcoming Northwest Indiana Green Drinks meetings that are open to the public. On Thursday, April 16, she will be at the Michigan City Green Drinks meetup to give an overview of the process and costs involved in the Solarize program. The meeting at Shoreline Brewery, 208 Wabash Street, starts at 6:30 pm. On Monday, April 20, Luther will be at the Green Drinks 6:30 pm meetup in Valparaiso at Greek’s Pizzeria, 59 Indiana Avenue. Her presentation that evening will be on why solar energy is such an attractive option and what residents can do to advocate for it in Northwest Indiana. Looking ahead, Solarize community workshops are being planned in Dyer, Gary, Hobart, and Valparaiso, and Luther urges residents there to stay tuned for more information.

Rich Herr would like to see even more people putting solar panels on their homes and businesses, and he points out that doing so also helps to address climate change. To those who are interested in using solar power, he says, “If you can swing it, do it.” Kathy Luther hopes that the savings realized through the Solarize program will make solar too attractive for area residents to resist.

Valparaiso and Michigan City Green Drinks meetings provide a forum for education and discussion of environmental issues and resources. All are welcome to attend. There is a suggested donation of $5 for adults, $2 for students. To sign up for email notices of future Green Drinks events, please go to