Public Resource
A Case Study on the Founding of the Cleveland Solar Cooperative
Will Cuneo, Jonathan Welle, Cleveland Owns

In June 2019, the nonprofit Cleveland Owns convened The Lakewood Community Solar Fellowship, a free leadership development program focused on bringing resident-owned community solar to Lakewood, Ohio. A group of 7 residents took part, meeting for a few hours every Sunday in the basement of the local public library. The goal? Form a solar cooperative to fight climate change and build toward climate justice.

When the Fellowship started, most of these residents were strangers, but together they would go on to form the Cleveland Solar Cooperative (CSC), Ohio’s first community-owned cooperative solar developer. How did this happen?

This case study has 3 main aims:

  1. Explore how the Lakewood Community Solar Fellowship laid the foundation for residents to take collective action for climate justice by forming CSC.
  2. Outline key moments, challenges, and successes residents encountered as they formed the cooperative.
  3. With wisdom and resources acquired in the formation of CSC, provide a sample toolkit for other communities aiming to take collective action against climate injustice.

This document, supported by the Climate Advocacy Lab, was written by Will Cuneo, a member of the Lakewood Community Solar Fellowship, along with Jonathan Welle, the Executive Director of Cleveland Owns. Both Will and Jonathan went on to be founding members of the Cleveland Solar Cooperative. Most case studies are written from an “objec- tive” third-person stance, but we decided to tell this story from the first-person for two main reasons. First, writing from the “I” (Will) and “We” (Will + Jonathan + and other founding members) perspective helps us reflect sincerely on the challenges and successes we’ve had together. Second, we want to share not only what we did, but what it felt like to do it.

Whether you’re a curious newcomer, an experienced activist, or somewhere in between, we hope this case study will inform and inspire you.