By Joe Timmerman
Few leaves are still falling off trees and down the ever-running water of the National Wild and Scenic Little Miami River, where they float through five counties and 111 miles of Southwest Ohio, into the Ohio River and toward the Mississippi before eventually finding their way into the Gulf of Mexico. Today, these 111 miles of Little Miami River are the cleanest that they have been in the last 40 years, and as the world may seem largely disconnected due to the coronavirus pandemic, a connection between people over time is helping to create the river's lasting sustainability.
Since the end of the last Ice Age before this land was known as America, humans have lived along the Little Miami River and enjoyed the resources it provides — drinking the water alongside its banks while hunting for fish within, using the clay to build pottery or structures, and floating on the surface in kayaks or canoes like the leaves still do today. In that time, the river has seen many seasons of change, from shifts in human culture alongside its banks through community development to biological diversities in its rich, natural environment, according to the Little Miami Ecology and History report.
When the Little Miami was designated as Ohio's first State Scenic River and included in the National Wild and Scenic River System in 1973, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, locals had already been active in its conservation and return to sustainability for more than half a decade. The Little Miami Conservancy (LMC), a non-profit organization fueled by passion for the protection of the river, led the effort in Washington to recognize the importance of protecting the Little Miami River as not only a local hidden gem, but as a national treasure.
The lower section of the river runs right through the heart of Loveland, Ohio, where LMC and its current executive director, Eric Partee, is based. Partee's passion roots from the original director of the conservancy, Glenn Thompson, who in 1967 embodied the idea that their effort isn't about one single person, but rather about everyone coming together to save the river.
"Someday, a corridor of green will stretch from one end of the river to the other. Individuals and families will enjoy peace and quiet and restoration of spirit that comes with clean water, birds, and trees," a quote from Glenn Thompson that Partee believes the conservancy has lived up to.
A ripple in the water caused by a fish moves below fall trees as the sun rises in Loveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. The Little Miami River flows through 5 counties and 111 miles of Southwest Ohio, including Clermont County and Hamilton County where Loveland lies between. Joe Timmerman
Since its origin, the conservancy has worked with agencies like the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), who records the condition of the Little Miami River every 10 years by sampling fish life. In the 1980s, only 4% of the Little Miami River was in full attainment of water quality health, but in recent years, the chart has flipped, and as of 2007, the river is at 96% attainment of health, according to OEPA research.
"As early as the turn of the century, this river was very well polluted. (There were) a lot of deformed fish, it was not anything close to exceptional," Partee said in an interview. "It took a lot of discussion, a little bit of arm twisting, and some local funding to fund improvements to the sewage treatment plants to ratchet down on phosphorus, which was the main culprit … when we got the treatment plants to ratchet down on that, biology basically turned around on a dime — from terrible to exceptional."
To make sure the river stays healthy, LMC introduced a set of equipment called YSI Water Quality Sondes, which monitor dissolved oxygen in nine locations throughout the length of the entire Little Miami, according to Partee. Each system monitors oxygen every 15 minutes, allowing for constant awareness of river health to prevent a reversion of quality. The conservancy also takes pride in its work on forest restoration through buying riverfront properties, planting trees, removing invasive species, and working collectively to clean up trash in the effort to grow closer to the initial goal of a corridor of green along the riverbank.
Eric Partee, executive director of the Little Miami Conservancy, holds one of nine water quality sondes that are found all along the length of the river, this one in Milford, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2020. A water quality sonde uses sensors to measure dissolved oxygen in the river, which is recorded every 15 minutes in 3-month spans and is checked once a week by Partee and volunteers of the conservancy. "Ninety-six percent of the river is in full attainment with exceptional habitat quality, it's just in fantastic condition. The challenge is to keep it that way," Partee said. Joe Timmerman
A short walk from the doors of the conservancy is the Loveland Canoe and Kayak Livery, owned by Mark and Robyn Bersani, which is just one of the many businesses along the Little Miami River that rely on its health as their main resource for income. The Bersanis work closely with the conservancy each year by offering and volunteering for cleanups as well as generous donations. This year, along with two other liveries including Rivers Edge and Scenic River, their combined donation to the Little Miami Conservancy's effort was $56,000, according to Bersani.
"We're involved from a grassroots portion, to actually helping with cleanups, to keeping an eye on the river, as well as donating and continuing to fund the good work that they do," Bersani said in an interview. "It comes down to the people that live along the river, people that visit the river, the people in the community, if the river is going to stay clean. This river is very natural, it looks like it did 300 years ago … it is vital that the citizens all realize they have a role in this."
Up the road at Loveland High School, Amy Aspenwall, an AP environmental science teacher teaches teenagers the importance of environmental awareness through hands-on experiences in places like the Little Miami River.
In an interview over Zoom, Aspenwall talked about the importance of students getting out into nature to actually see how humans fit in the environment, because "if you don't see it, it's really not your problem," Aspenwall said. From understanding food waste to the water drinking system to sewer treatment facilities, her goal is to allow students the opportunity to realize a sense of civic responsibility.
"It's important for students to start to think of themselves as a bigger picture rather than just someone following teacher instructions," Aspenwall said. "I want them to start thinking on their own and realize how powerful they are as a consumer."
Although the Little Miami River is of "exceptional quality," according to a 2010 water quality monitoring report by the OEPA, "the tributaries were generally of a lower quality."
Michelle Waller, an environmental specialist in the Division of Surface Water at OEPA, discussed the difficulties the river has faced through poor nutrients entering the river due to excess phosphorus from treatment plants and still faces through agricultural runoff from farms, in an interview over Zoom.
Waller said that placing phosphorus limits on the main stem's water treatment plants in recent years proved to show major improvements in river nutrients after the OEPA performed sampling, but other negative sources are out of their reach. "We do not have authority over agriculture the way we do with what we call point sources, the treatment plants," Waller said. "We try to work with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, they try to get the word out about good farming practices … but there is no real regulatory authority which is a really big problem."
The majority of land along the Little Miami River is agricultural, unlike other major rivers in Ohio that have industry running alongside their waters. And just like the branches of community that have come together to help preserve the river, many tributary streams and creeks branch out from the Little Miami, though those tributaries can be overlooked.
As most organizations, including the OEPA and LMC, focus their efforts on upholding the exceptional quality of the main stem of the Little Miami River, there is still work to be done in the tributaries. Partee talked about how there just isn't enough time for LMC to visit every tributary and talk to every landowner. However, near Beaver Creek in Greene County, there is an organization called the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association, which has adopted that very issue. "I think that's probably the best future for the watershed, to have local citizens dealing with multiple tributaries and try to restore or protect it," said Partee.
People bike on a section of the Loveland Bike Trail alongside the Little Miami River in Loveland, Ohio, on Monday, Nov. 8, 2020. Joe Timmerman
Between the shared relationships of the Little Miami Conservancy, OEPA, local government officials, developers, landowners, non-profits, teachers, and local business owners, a community has come together and worked toward the common effort to make a positive, sustainable change in the health of the river.
The timelessness of the Little Miami River will carry on as long as its water continues to run. And as it always has been, it's still up to the people alongside the riverbank to make sure that the water runs clean for generations to come. As the late author Nelson Henderson said, and Eric Partee paraphrased when we talked together, "The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
Note: The next OEPA Little Miami River Watershed TMDL Report will be produced and published by 2022, according to the last OEPA TMDL report.
Joe Timmerman is a sophomore journalism and photojournalism student at E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the School of Visual Communications at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Joe is passionate about finding natural connections between people and sharing those stories he finds.
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What should you know about the up-and-coming company Blue Raven Solar?
Considering a solar energy system from Blue Raven Solar? Before you sign a contract, you may want to know more about the company's services, major pros and cons, and what Blue Raven Solar reviews say about the quality of service you can expect from this installer.
In this article, we'll discuss all that and more to help you figure out if Blue Raven Solar is the right choice for your home.
|Blue Raven Solar Fast Facts|
|Service Areas||17 states including CO, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MO, NC, NV, OH, OR, SC, TX, UT, VA|
|Service Types||Solar panel system installations and monitoring|
|Types of Panels Sold||Monocrystalline black-on-black panels between 315 and 335 watts from brands including Trina and Canadian Solar|
|Backup Battery Options||Not yet offered|
|Certifications||North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) technicians|
|Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating||A+ with accreditation|
The best way to assess whether solar is a practical option is to get quotes from a local installer. To receive a free quote from Blue Raven Solar, or a similar provider in your area, fill out the 30-second form below.
Blue Raven Solar Overview
Founded in 2014, this young solar power provider boasts a stellar reputation anchored in exceptional customer service and an innovative solar financing model. Its mission is to make homeowners' lives better by reducing their utility bills, increasing their reliance on clean and abundant renewable energy and providing a world-class customer experience through a reliable sales process and speedy, high-quality installations.
Though Blue Raven Solar may not be a household name like some other top solar companies, the growing provider has expanded its service area to an impressive 17 states and has no plans of slowing. Solar giant SunPower recently acquired Blue Raven Solar for $165 million, a testament to its growth and potential in the residential solar market. As of now, it does not appear that Blue Raven's operations will be affected by the acquisition.
Blue Raven Solar Services and Installation
Blue Raven Solar installs residential solar panels with top-of-the-line products and inverters. It sells exclusively monocrystalline Tier 3 black-on-black solar panels (between 315 and 335 watts) to provide a seamless look on your rooftop. Brands used in Blue Raven installations typically include Trina and Canadian Solar, which are both known for their reliable, relatively affordable solar panels. Although Blue Raven Solar does not yet offer solar battery installations, it plans to soon.
Blue Raven strives to provide a world class customer experience through a reliable sales process, flexible solar financing and a speedy, high-quality installation. Here's what you can expect the solar panel installation process to look like with Blue Raven Solar.
- Receive a free quote by providing some basic information like your address, average monthly energy bill and credit score.
- If deemed eligible, Blue Raven Solar will conduct a site visit at your home to examine the type of roof you have as well as its quality and electrical status.
- After the site visit, Blue Raven will work with you to draw up a maximum efficiency plan for your roof. It's at this stage that your solar consultant will be able to answer any questions you may have about the solar panel installation process, solar tax credits, state solar incentives and financing options.
- Once all your questions have been answered and you feel confident in your decision, Blue Raven Solar will draw up your solar contract and apply for city permits. Blue Raven will handle all the paperwork, but expect this process to take a few weeks.
- After applying for city permits, Blue Raven Solar will get in touch with your utility company to enroll you in its net metering program, if applicable. Incentives like net metering are important to understand prior to signing a contract.
- Once all permits, agreements and plans are in order, Blue Raven Solar will install your solar energy system. This can be carried out in as little as one day depending on the complexity of your system.
- Before you can turn the system on, you will need to pass inspections carried out by the city and the local utility companies. These are usually separate inspections and processes will vary depending on your location. Blue Raven will handle the logistics.
Solar Panel Warranty
Blue Raven Solar provides its customers with a 25-year product warranty, which will cover issues related to the manufacturing of the solar panels themselves. Routine maintenance, such as solar panel cleaning or snow removal, is the responsibility of the homeowner.
Like most solar panel installers, Blue Raven also provides a 10-year workmanship warranty that covers homeowners against faulty workmanship or errors by the installation team.
The company prides itself on customer satisfaction — and thousands of positive Blue Raven Solar reviews can tell you it's not just an advertising tactic. One nice perk of going with this company is that it will cover the cost to repair any solar system that is underperforming its expected rate. Note that this production guarantee only lasts for two years, so be sure to monitor your system closely after installation.
Blue Raven Solar Costs and Financing
The cost of solar is difficult to estimate by provider, as it can vary so widely depending on your state, roof and energy needs. However, Blue Raven sets itself apart from most competitors with its exclusive solar financing plan, BluePower+.
Financing Options Through Blue Raven Solar
BluePower+ is a financing option available only to Blue Raven Solar customers. Unlike most other solar loans, BluePower+ offers the unique advantages of a $0-upfront option for the first 18 months of a system's life, as well as a fixed repayment rate and the ability to pay the loan off at any time without penalty. The company claims this attractive financing option (when coupled with the federal tax credit) allows customers to pay off more than 33% of the overall cost of a system within the first 18 months after installation. This adjustment quickly accelerates the solar panel payback period for Blue Raven customers.
Blue Raven Solar does not offer solar leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs).
Blue Raven Solar Reviews
As Blue Raven Solar positions itself as a leader in customer experience and satisfaction, it's no surprise that it has received some standout feedback. Let's take a look at a few examples of positive and negative Blue Raven Solar reviews.
Positive Blue Raven Solar Reviews
Most satisfied customers post reviews similar to that below, praising Blue Raven's customer service:
"Blue Raven did an excellent job under-promising and over-delivering, contrary to most competitors. Install was completed quickly, correctly, and all inspections were tailored to my schedule. My power bill is completely gone, and my property value has increased at the same time. Strongly recommend it."
– Justin via Google Reviews
"Blue Raven Solar made this so easy. They got the permits, contacted my HOA, found a great roof company for my new roof and then installed my solar panels. The solar install team was so nice, on time, efficient and professional. If you are looking for solar, use Blue Raven Solar!"
– Cindy via BBB
Negative Blue Raven Solar Reviews
As with any young company, Blue Raven Solar has experienced some growing pains. Most negative Blue Raven Solar reviews involve difficulties in communication after a sale.
"Terrible experience. We have a $20,000+ solar package with this company that hasn't worked correctly for over a year. (All the while I've been paying for it.) Every time that we schedule to have it taken care of, the company finds some excuse to put it off."
– Joshua via BBB
Blue Raven Solar strives for exemplary service, so it has personally replied to most if not all of its negative feedback online. Much of Blue Raven Solar's growth is credited to its referral program, which serves as a testament to the overall satisfaction of its customers.
Final Thoughts on Blue Raven Solar
Blue Raven Solar's innovative financing model, exceptional customer experience, quality warranty and A+ rating from the BBB make it a safe and reliable choice for solar customers. Tackling financing and solar loan strategies can be a tough challenge for a new solar adopter, but Blue Raven sets itself apart from the competition with its straightforward financial solution that provides immediate returns.
Expanding with the speed and success of Blue Raven Solar would be a challenge for most solar providers, but Blue Raven is addressing these challenges head-on. The provider has delivered on customer expectations during a rapid stage of growth and is expanding offerings of backup batteries to provide further customization for its customers.
|Blue Raven Solar Pros||Blue Raven Solar Cons|
|Innovative financing options||No backup battery options|
|Exceptional service and customer satisfaction||Little customization|
|Energy monitoring service available||No solar lease or PPA option available|
|Quickly growing service areas|
Based on our research, we recommend Blue Raven Solar to customers who are new to solar, don't need customization or don't have an advanced understanding of the technicalities behind a solar panel installation. Its straightforward financing, trusted sales staff and customer service make the process simple and easy to understand for a customer new to solar. Though an impressive young company, Blue Raven Solar may not provide the best services for those seeking a specific brand of panel, backup battery options or more custom features.
Solar Energy Provider Comparison
Unless you're handy enough to complete a DIY solar project, most homeowners considering solar will have to find a local installer to complete the design, permitting and installation of solar panels. But which is the right choice for your home?
Let's compare Blue Raven Solar to some of the other name-brand solar companies in the U.S: Sunrun and SunPower. Overall, Blue Raven Solar excels in customer satisfaction relative to its competitors, earning it a rank among the top national providers.
|Blue Raven Solar||Sunpower||Sunrun|
|Services Offered||Solar panel installation, monitoring, maintenance||Solar panel installation, battery installation, monitoring||Solar panel installation, battery installation, monitoring, maintenance|
|Service Areas||CO, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MO, NC, NV, OH, OR, SC, TX, UT, VA||All 50 States||AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, MD, MA, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.|
|Payment Options||Cash, in-house financing plans||Cash, loan, lease||Cash, loan, lease, PPA|
FAQ: Blue Raven Solar
How does Blue Raven Solar work?
Blue Raven Solar installs residential solar panels with top-of-the-line products and inverters across 17 states as of 2021. Complete with design, permitting, installation and custom financing of PV panels, Blue Solar offers comprehensive services for those looking for a solar panel array.
What kind of company is Blue Raven?
Blue Raven Solar is a regional residential solar panel provider and installer. It was recently acquired by national provider SunPower.
How long has Blue Raven Solar been around?
Blue Raven Solar was founded in 2014, which makes its service area of 17 states all the more impressive. Within seven years, Blue Raven Solar's staff has expanded from three to over 1,400 employees.
Is Blue Raven Solar a good place to work?
In 2021, Blue Raven Solar ranked in the top 20 Best Places to Work in Glassdoor's annual Employees' Choice Awards. Coupled with a 4.3 out of 5-star rating on Glassdoor, the award proves Blue Raven Solar is a good choice if employee satisfaction is an important factor in your employment decision.
Where is Blue Raven Solar available?
Blue Raven Solar offers service in 17 states including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.