Indiana University students develop cooperative solar energy models

Accounting students explore cooperative business models for accessible, affordable community solar power


Carl Nelson


Jacob Simpson, Marshall Curry


Orange County, IN
Community Size
19,646 (2019 Census Estimate)
Indiana University
Sustaining Hoosier Communities
Case Type
Project Stories
EPA Region 5, USA
Sustainable Development Goals
13 Climate Action, 7 Renewable Energy

Orange County is a rural southern Indiana county comprising four incorporated towns and a number of unincorporated communities. Residents are intent on celebrating the county’s industrial roots, natural beauty, and historic architecture while embracing and preparing for the future. Local progress is driven in large part by “grassroots cooperative leadership” (Report, Pg. 4), while legal and medical non-profits provide essential communal services. This community-oriented mentality lends itself to innovative partnerships between various actors working towards common goals in areas like infrastructure, culture, tourism, and healthcare. 

Local residents see the possibility for cooperative sustainability 

The residents of Orange County recognize the importance of practicing sustainability at the local level. Unfortunately, renewable energy systems are often too expensive for working class families and small businesses to afford and maintain without assistance. Seeking alternative energy distribution models, residents were exploring the possibility of a solar-power cooperative accessible to both homes and businesses in the region.

Students seek accessible community solar power models 

The Sustaining Hoosier Communities (SHC) program at Indiana University offered a collaborative channel for this essential project. Community residents enlisted the help of Dr. Bree Josefy’s field consulting course in the IU Kelley School of Business. Partnering with resident Samuel Kinsey, Josefy challenged graduate accounting students to model comprehensive business and organization plans for a solar power cooperative. In order to meet the project criteria, their concepts had to be affordable and accessible to Orange County homes and businesses.

A collective system promises to improve household sustainability

Students participants delivered viable strategies for solar power cooperatives in Orange County. One option was a group-purchasing arrangement (GPA), the installation of multiple panels in order to lower the overall cost. All of the student models center accessibility and affordability, presenting paths to community sustainability. Through this business-minded approach to renewable energy distribution, project partners empowered members of the local economy to collectively increase sustainability.

As the planet changes, communities must adopt sustainable models. These student-developed solar strategies have the potential to advance equality through cooperative living. Meanwhile, those same students will continue to solve climate challenges. 

Sustaining Hoosier Communities Contact Info
Jane Rogan
Sustaining Hoosier Communities Director
(812) 855-0568

Indiana University Faculty Contact Info
Bree Josefy

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

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