Here Comes the Sun! Range Summer ‘21 Solar Tour stops in Grand Rapids, Aug. 11

Solar home of Tim and Laura Willaert in Bigfork.

Grand Rapids residents will learn about solar energy and how to add solar to their homes or small businesses at a stop on the Here Comes the Sun! Range Summer ‘21 Solar Tour. Attendees will also be able to join the Iron Range Solar Co-op. Nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors (SUN) is leading the group along with Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability. The solar co-op will help homeowners, farmers, and small businesses on the Range go solar.

“With the solar tour we wanted to highlight the solar happening in the community and create an opportunity for more people to go solar,” said Bill Schnell of Grand Rapids, Board member of the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability. “This event with Solar United Neighbors will walk people through the basics of going solar on their home or small business and how going solar through the solar co-op can make the process more affordable and easier.”

The Solar 101 and Range-Wide Solar Co-op program is Wednesday, Aug. 11, 6 - 8 p.m. (program at 6:30 p.m.) at the Itasca Family YMCA (400 River Road, Grand Rapids). To RSVP, go to

The Tour is a project of the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability in collaboration with Congregations Caring for the Earth and the City of Mt. Iron.

The co-op is free to join and open to homeowners, farmers and business owners on the Range. Together, co-op members will learn about solar energy and leverage their numbers to purchase individual solar systems at a competitive price and top quality.

After a competitive bidding process facilitated by SUN, which remains vendor neutral, co-op members will select a single solar company to complete the installations. Joining the co-op does not obligate members to purchase solar. Instead, members will have the option to individually purchase panels and electric vehicle chargers based on the installer’s group rate.

Many people are interested in going solar on their home, farm or small business but don’t know where to start. That was the case for Bigfork resident Laura Willaert in 2019.

“I wanted solar on my home, but it was all new to me and living in such a rural area it didn’t seem like there were many options,” said Willaert.

But that changed when she heard about the Solar United Neighbors Range Solar Co-op. She along with neighbors in the area joined the solar co-op and now her home has a 5.28-Kilowatt solar array producing clean renewable power.

“As a member of the solar co-op I got an education on what it takes to go solar,” said Willaert. “Also, the process made sure we had a reputable solar installer that offered a good price. This was real peace of mind and worked out for us. This was especially important to me because we were the first North Itasca Electric customer to go solar.”

SUN has hosted 14 solar co-ops in Minnesota since 2017 including a past Range Solar Co-op. According to the group’s estimates, the 128 homes and businesses that now have solar panels because of co-ops represent: 128 kW of solar power, $3 million in local solar spending, and more than 34.8 million lbs. of lifetime carbon offsets.

“The co-op will enable homeowners and business owners on the Range to join the growing community of people saving money by harnessing solar power,” said Bobby King, Minnesota state director for Solar United Neighbors (SUN). “Together, we’re building a movement to transform our electricity system into one that is cleaner, fairer, and shares its benefits more broadly.”

SUN will host several free information sessions to educate community members about solar energy and the co-op. To RSVP and learn more about the Range Solar Co-op online go to Click on the “events” tab under the picture to RSVP. You can also call Solar United Neighbors at (612) 293-7267.

About Solar United Neighbors

Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that works in Minnesota and nationwide to represent the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. Solar co-ops are part of the organization’s mission to create a new energy system with rooftop solar at the cornerstone. Solar United Neighbors holds events and education programs to help people become informed solar consumers, maximize the value of their solar investment, and advocate for fair solar policies.


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