There are solar panels on residences and buildings across DC, even in historic districts. It’s non-polluting energy. It’s a renewable natural resource. Thanks to the DC government, it’s becoming a more affordable source of energy for all District residents.
“Solar for All” is a new program of the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE). In line with the District’s Sustainable DC goals, the program seeks to provide solar electricity to 100,000 low-income households. The goal is to reduce their energy bills by 50 percent by 2032.
Earlier this year, Solar United Neighbors of DC received a grant from DOEE to help implement the Solar for All program for District residents living in single-family homes through their signature solar co-ops. The result is the 51st State Solar Co-op. While the co-op is open to all District residents, low-to-moderate income households may qualify for grant funding from DOEE to offset the cost of installing solar arrays on their homes through the Solar for All program. The income qualification level is 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), or $54,250 for a single individual and $77,450 for a family of four.
While installing solar on a home or business results in overall energy savings, joining a solar co-op can further reduce the price of an installation. Co-op members work together to conduct a competitive bidding process to select a single company that will install systems on all participating homes. As solar installation companies invest a great deal of time and resources looking for clients, they are willing to offer great deals for co-op participants on quality solar installations. Co-ops provide education and technical guidance to all participants throughout the whole process of going solar. Each co-op member signs his or her own contract with the installer, but everyone benefits from the bulk discount. More information on solar technology and the impacts of installing solar on at home can be found at www.solarunitedneighbors.org/go-solar/faqs/.
While developing and negotiating a solar installation contract is not rocket science, it does require some insight and expertise. Solar United Neighbors of DC has supported two dozen co-ops across DC over the past decade, helping more than 500 DC residents and businesses install solar arrays and saving over $1.3 million in electricity bills in the process.
DC SUN launched a first 51st State Solar Co-op earlier this spring. Co-op members selected Edge Energy to install the solar arrays. So far, more than 30 co-op participants have expressed interest in completing the Solar for All application process. While the deadline for joining this co-op opportunity is May 31, Solar United Neighbors of DC will launch a second round of the 51st State Solar Co-op in June. Over the summer, they will work with these new members to develop and issue a request for proposals (RFP). More co-ops will be rolled out over the 18-months of the grant.
Unlike previous solar co-op groups that have been organized across DC, the 51st State Solar Co-Op is actively seeking the participation of low-to-middle income households. DOEE Director Tommy Wells is enthusiastic about the program. “Under the Bowser Administration, we’ve shown that solar power is a viable and cost-saving energy option for District residents and businesses. Through Solar for All and the 51st State Solar Co-op, we’re expanding access to clean energy for residents across the District by providing solar electricity to low- and moderate-income households and reducing their energy bills by 50 percent by 2032. This is exciting stuff!”
Yesenia Rivera, Solar United Neighbors of DC Program Director is also a huge fan of the program. “We’re proud to help low- and moderate-income District residents enjoy the benefits of going solar with the 51st State Solar Co-op,” she said. “By installing solar on your home for free, you can see huge savings on your energy costs over the life of your system.”
To learn more about the 51St State Co-Op, check out the website at www.solarunitedneighbors.org/dc/go-solar-in-d-c/go-solar-in-a-d-c-group/solar-for-all-co-op/. Joining a co-op doesn’t come with any commitment to purchase solar panels. Rather, it’s just a way to learn more about the process.
In early May, the DC Council unanimously voted in favor of a 100 percent renewable energy package for Washington, DC. While the details have yet to be worked out, it is obvious that DC is serious about bringing renewable energy to all of DC.
Have you gone solar yet? Check it out! Let the sunshine in, do something good for the planet, and save yourself some money. It’s hard to find a deal better than that!
Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer, and blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler. She is also a Board Member and Conservation Chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, however, perspectives expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.