Man unable to install solar panels at home discovers clever solution that helps entire community: ‘The gift that keeps on giving’

John Smillie, a finance manager from Crawfordsville, Indiana, started to feel increasingly worried about the ongoing human-driven climate problems a few years ago. In response, he decided to decarbonize his own home.

But Smillie took his passion for climate solutions a step further, reports Canary Media. When he discovered that the shape of his roof made it too difficult to install solar panels, he decided that he wanted to install some solar panels anyway — on the roof of a local nonprofit.

Smillie pitched his idea to his neighbor, the Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau, offering to both install and fund — at an out-of-pocket cost of $30,000 — the solar array himself. The nonprofit accepted, of course. “It was a no-brainer for us,” said Karen Branch, the nonprofit’s executive director.

Next, Smillie approached the Boys & Girls Club of Montgomery County with a similar offer, but this time, he was able to make use of tax credits offered by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to get the government to pay for a portion of the project.

While many people throughout the United States have been strangely opposed to solar panels, Smillie has been able to use his financial background to convince these groups of their benefits and climate friendliness. Now, he has gone from taking advantage of the IRA to giving talks to nonprofit staffers about how they can use the law to help shift their organizations to clean energy usage.

All of this has been “a great channel to deal with the anxiety and positively contribute directly to the community,” Smillie told Canary Media, adding that human-driven climate problems are “the largest collective-action problem in human history” and that he is happy to be “one more pair of hands.”

Currently, Smillie is working to solarize another nonprofit and a local school, pitching his local police department and city to switch to electric vehicles, and advocating against rules that have prevented utility-scale solar and wind projects in his county.

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