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Solar is a Luxury Everyone Can Afford

image credit: ID 149136148 © Michele Jackson | Dreamstime.com

Solar power has the potential to curb energy costs and contribute to a healthier environment. But these benefits are impossible to achieve for those who can’t afford the up-front cost of solar panel installation. That’s why utilities, governments, and organizations are all stepping up to help those who can most benefit from solar power.

Utilities Provide Community Solar

In a variety of ways, utilities are ensuring solar power is available to all who want it. Strategies include partnering with third parties, offering payment schedules, and developing community solar programs.

These programs allow customers to get the benefits of solar power without having to pay the initial installation costs, or without having to install the equipment on their property at all. For example, through the Solar Partner Program offered by Arizona Public Service (APS), solar equipment is installed on a customer’s home at no cost to them. In fact, APS provides a $30 credit on the customer’s bill each month. APS also maintains the equipment. APS explains why it started this program: “Having specific areas of high penetration of solar today will help us learn how to better integrate solar and other renewable technologies tomorrow.”

Another company taking advantage of the ample sunlight in Arizona, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) offers similar benefits through its Residential Solar Program. As with the APS program, TEP pays for installation and maintenance of solar equipment on residential properties. Customers get the benefit of using solar power at a fixed rate. With both programs, the solar equipment can remain on the property when it’s sold.

States Support Solar Programs

Utilities aren’t alone in finding ways to enable customers to take advantage of solar power regardless of their incomes. The Maryland Community Solar Pilot Program emphasizes “providing renewable energy benefits for low and moderate income customers.” The program consists of various projects operated by utilities, retail electricity suppliers, and solar developers and allows renters to contract for solar energy with the same benefits as rooftop owners. Programs like this one also encourage investment in the solar industry and the opportunity to diversify the state’s energy resource mix.

In New York, Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) is Governor Cuomo’s energy strategy for the state. The initiative focuses on helping consumers make better energy choices, the development of new energy products and services, protecting the environment, and creating new jobs. One component of the effort is enhanced access to solar power. Using a financing opportunity through REV, one New York dairy farmer was able to convert to 100 percent solar power for running his operation.

Shared solar programs involve accessing energy collected from solar equipment away from private property; this type of program is gaining popularity in many states as well. According to E360, “A dozen states and the District of Columbia have developed, or are developing, a variety of mandates, financial incentives, and pilot programs to make it easier for low-income participants to access shared solar.”  

Organizations Offer Solar Resources

Many organizations are also working to bring solar energy to a wider population. The following groups offer resources and outreach to ensure those with low to moderate incomes can take advantage of the benefits of solar:

  • According to its website, “Grid Alternatives’ Energy for All program makes solar power accessible to families who need the savings most, while providing hands-on solar installation experience to volunteers and job trainees.”
  • Solar Power Rocks offers resources, such as information about state programs, to help those with low incomes get affordable access to solar power.
  • Solar Power also provides resources, including rankings and guides for finding solar power sources.  
  • Vote Solar’s Access & Equity Program, according to the organization’s website, “is dedicated to expanding access to solar technology, savings and jobs to the approximately 22 million low-income households nationwide.”

As more households gain access to solar power, the benefits are distributed to others in their communities who gain solar equipment installation jobs as well as cleaner, healthier air.

What do you know about widening access to solar power? Please share in the comments.

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