Low-income homeowners get free solar panels thanks to cap & trade

By David R. Baker, The San Francisco Chronicle

The spread of residential solar power has been largely a middle-class affair. A 2013 study by the liberal research and advocacy group Center for American Progress found that 67 percent of solar arrays installed in California went to ZIP codes with a median household income between $40,000 and $90,000. Wealthier areas accounted for almost all of the rest.

A new California program, however, aims to make solar power available to lower-income families — using money from the state’s fight against global warming. Run by Oakland nonprofit Grid Alternatives, the effort will install home solar arrays in disadvantaged neighborhoods, using $14.7 million raised through California’s cap-and-trade system for reining in greenhouse gas emissions.

The organization specializes in solar and energy-efficiency projects in working-class communities. Using the cap-and-trade money, Grid Alternatives plans to install arrays on more than 1,600 California homes by the end of 2016. It taps job-training programs to provide the installers and relies on donated equipment from such Bay Area solar companies as SunEdison, SunPower and Enphase.

Most homeowners are asked to make small contributions for the installation, such as agreeing to feed the crew installing the array, or agreeing to help with the installation themselves. The arrays will save most homeowners $400 to $1,000 per year on electricity, depending on where they live.

Read full article in the San Francisco Chronicle

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