From the Ground Up: Advocating for Solar in Idaho

Written By Lily Tindle-Hardy

It’s the “biggest electrical transition in history,” and we’re sitting on its doorstep: This is how Commercial Engineer Anika Miller, of RevoluSun, a Boise-based solar company, explained the clean energy transition that is necessary to combat the climate crisis. She experiences it in her work, implementing solar panels and battery-based storage on local properties.

We’re living in the midst of a momentous pivot in time, both for humankind and for the Earth. Now is the time to step in and step up, to defend the environment and how we live in it.

“We’ve got this moment to drive it, and to pick the direction in which we drive it,” Miller said.

Solar power isn’t new, but it is growing, and with new developments come better benefits. Advancements make this renewable source more than a few panels for convenient reserves. It’s resilience-building, keeping things running even when the sun isn’t shining. Not to mention, the cost benefits of transitioning to solar are significant. As one of the sunniest states in the nation, Idaho is perfect for it: A “phenomenal” chance for Idahoans, Miller called it.

For people like Justin Welty, a local environmentalist, these renewable resources are a given: “We’re helping our closest neighbors, providing them with electricity when we’re generating overage,” he said. “All that is local, and we maximize as much of it as possible.”

Welty, who spoke at a solar hearing at the Public Utilities Commission in October, owns panels himself. Twelve, to be precise, and the satisfaction of generating his own power motivated him to advocate. Welty said it’s “heartening” to see people banding together for the cause.

Corporate utilities, though, are making it hard to have feasible access to solar.

Proposals from Idaho Power to the Public Utilities Commission are set to reduce the cost benefits of having panels and decrease solar savings, disincentivizing the push for clean alternatives. For the future of our state’s environmental health, this is a huge hurdle, and a possible problem for this utility’s mission to hit 100% renewable energy by 2045.

Solar is the most plentiful power resource on the planet. Yet, even with this full supply, corporations have exploited and monopolized it in attempting to limit individual and communal ownership of panels, maintaining exclusive control of power-producing structures. This leaves environmental alternatives out of reach for frontline communities, those who experience the burdensome brunt of the climate crisis sweeping our home and our environments.

“We have to hold people accountable, and ensure funds get to communities who need them,” said Lisa Young, Chapter Director of the Idaho Sierra Club. “Not to the wealthier ones, who have the means to advocate for them.”

Progress doesn’t get set in motion without the help of those doing work on the ground. Fighting against corporate scale utilities and their biased proposals that place a significant burden on BIPOC and low-income communities can’t be done alone–it takes cooperation and collaboration, and community is key.

Electricity isn’t just good for keeping the lights on: It’s a crucial part of our household needs. Electricity keeps us sheltered and provided for, from keeping the stove on to providing power for critical medical devices. Solar facilitates that. Further, surplus power gets sent down the line, benefitting the rest of the neighborhood. It connects us economically and environmentally.

Whether you’re in the Southwest or the Northeast, we all share our state’s natural environments. Going green helps us help them continue to thrive. It begins here, with activists, locals, and engineers, to build the bedrock of a society where we keep the lights on in every community. We’re making our voices heard, and we can’t accomplish it alone.

“I think a lot of us feel very powerless,” Miller said. “A lot of us don’t have the financial mobility, or, necessarily, the political impact that generations before us have. A lot of our generation is concerned about climate change, and about our future. This is an opportunity for everyone, no matter their income class or individual position, to be involved.”

Lily Tindle-Hardy is a soon-to-be graduate of Boise State University working toward a Bachelor of Arts in Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication. A long-time writer in the worlds of both fiction and non-fiction, she likes classic literature, classical music, and, coming from Northwest Oregon, green environments and wet weather. Lily is a published student writer for Boise State Advancement Communications, and, post-graduation, plans to continue her writing career outside the university setting.

Solar For All illustration

Illustration by Melissa Eyer, Skyview High School