GRID Alternatives awarded $4.4 million in funding for California’s first low-income community solar projects

The California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) announced final awards totaling $4.4 million to GRID Alternatives for two Community Solar Pilot projects in Contra Costa and Riverside Counties. These first-in-California low-income community solar projects are part of California Climate Investments and will make the cost-saving benefits of solar energy accessible to more low-income households while contributing to California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“CSD is excited to have the opportunity to pilot new program models like community solar to help ensure that the investments the state is making to fight climate change continue to benefit all Californians,” said CSD Director Linné Stout. “The innovative projects that are being funded under the Community Solar Pilot Program will deliver financial savings to low-income households that otherwise can’t be served by existing solar programs, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Program details

The Community Solar Pilot Program, part of CSD’s Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), is designed to reduce energy costs for households that are not currently able to benefit from existing low-income solar programs. Most Californians face barriers to traditional rooftop solar, including those who rent, don’t have a roof suitable for solar, who live in an apartment building, or lack financing options.

Well-designed community solar increases access to clean renewable energy by enabling multiple households or buildings to participate in a larger scale shared solar installation located in their community. The goal of CSD’s Community Solar Pilot Program is to provide funding for the implementation and testing of models to deliver community solar to low-income households in innovative ways that have the potential to be replicated elsewhere and to scale, reduce greenhouse gas and toxic air emissions, reduce household energy costs, and provide workforce development opportunities and other co-benefits to communities.

“Community solar can provide more equitable access to renewable power and the clean energy economy. We’re thrilled to be part of California’s first community solar projects which will exclusively benefit low-income families,” said Stan Greschner, chief policy and business development officer with GRID Alternatives. “Not only will the Community Solar Pilot Program directly lower residents’ energy costs and provide workforce development opportunities in low-income communities, but these projects will be models for scalable programs in the future.”

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GRID’s projects

Following a competitive procurement, CSD selected two projects led by GRID Alternatives to receive funding under the Pilot. GRID has partnered with the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians and City of Richmond for these community solar projects.

GRID Alternatives Inland Empire was awarded $2.05 million to install a 994 kilowatt (kW) ground mounted solar array in partnership with the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Anza Electric Cooperative, Inc. The community solar system will be sited on Santa Rosa Tribal lands in Riverside County, an area designated as a low-income community, and will benefit approximately 38 homes on tribal land and 150-250 other low-income households served by Anza Electric. The project is expected to produce more than 42,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy over the next 30 years and provide up to $5.4 million in savings to participants over the life of the project.

“The Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians is proud to partner with Anza Electric Cooperative and GRID Alternatives to provide clean energy to not only Tribal Members, but also other surrounding mountain community members,” said Tribal Chairman, Steven Estrada. “We are thankful for the opportunity to facilitate this project by using our tribal lands in a sustainable way.”

GRID Alternatives Bay Area was awarded $2.38 million to install a 989 kW solar array in partnership with the City of Richmond. The community solar system will be sited at the Port of Richmond and demonstrates how solar can play a key role in decarbonizing California’s ports. The project will benefit 155 low-income households in designated disadvantaged communities in Richmond. Approximately 80 to 95 percent of subscribers are anticipated to be residents of affordable housing properties near the Port of Richmond that are not good candidates for rooftop solar; and who will receive direct financial benefits equal to approximately 75 percent of typical renter electricity costs. The remaining 5 to 20 percent of subscribers will be local renters and homeowners that are not able to benefit from existing low-income solar programs. The community solar project is expected to generate approximately $81,000 per year in revenue over 20 years for distribution to local low-income households.

“This is a perfect example of how cities can leverage land use authority and community choice energy programs to spur local clean energy development,” said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. “There is a rich history of shipbuilding and manufacturing at the Port of Richmond during the WWII era, now we’re using that same innovative spirit to build renewable energy systems that offset residents’ energy costs.”

Each community solar project will provide solar installation training and meet specific local hiring and wage requirements. For the Santa Rosa project, residents from the Santa Rosa Band will participate in paid job training opportunities during the solar installation. Both projects are estimated to be completed by the first quarter of 2021.

— Solar Builder magazine

DC Sustainable Energy Utility names nine contractors to install 7 MW of lower income solar via Solar for All

community solar for installers

In partnership with the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) announced plans to work with nine contractors to bring over 7 MW of solar to income-qualified DC residents through its Solar for All program this year.

The Solar for All program serves both moderate and low-income District residents. Residents are eligible to participate in the program if their total household income is below 80% of the area median income (AMI) threshold. For example, a family of four would be eligible if their total household income is $93,750 or below.

“Bringing solar to DC families at no cost will put necessary funds back in their pockets for other necessities like food, medications, school supplies, or transportation,” said Ted Trabue, Director of the DCSEU. “It will also reduce harmful emissions which results in cleaner air for our communities.”

The DCSEU has selected the following contractors to install solar PV systems on approximately 130 income-qualified single-family homes total in the District:

• Greenscape Environmental Services
• GRID Alternatives
• Solar Solution
• WDC Solar

The DCSEU has chosen the following developers to build community solar installations, which will give over 1,000 income-qualified DC families a credit off their monthly energy bills:

• Greenscape Environmental Services
• Federal City DC
• Flywheel
• Infrastructure DC
• NEO
• New Columbia Solar

Participating households will see cost savings of at least 50% on their utility bills. This means an anticipated savings of roughly $500 per year.

This announcement kicks off a new round of Solar for All initiatives with over $25 million in incentive funding available over three years, subject to availability of funds. The DCSEU’s work on the Solar for All program is expected to benefit over 7,000 income-qualified District households and spur green jobs in DC by helping grow the local solar industry. With the recent passage of the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, this program will help the District meet its clean energy goals of 100% renewable electricity by 2032 and reduce overall carbon emissions in the District.

While some contracts are still being finalized, work will begin immediately. Solar systems must be installed by September 30, 2019.

— Solar Builder magazine

GRID Alternatives to head up California’s Disadvantaged Communities – Single-family Solar Homes program

GRID Alternatives

GRID Alternatives was selected by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to administer the Disadvantaged Communities – Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH) program. The program builds on California’s long-standing and successful Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program, also administered by GRID Alternatives, providing long-term funding to bring solar power to households located in California’s most disadvantaged communities. The program will provide $8.5 million in incentives annually from 2019 through 2030.

Since it was launched in 2009, the SASH program has reduced the cost of going solar for over 8,000 low-income households, resulting in nearly 25 megawatts of residential solar installation. In addition, over 16,500 job training students have received hands-on solar installation experience through the program. The DAC-SASH program will similarly integrate job training opportunities into every project, creating ladders of opportunity for individuals from all backgrounds to access well-paid jobs in California’s solar industry, and ensuring lasting community impact.

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“Through DAC-SASH, more Californians living in disadvantaged communities will see concrete economic and environmental benefits from our transition to clean energy,” said Cathleen Monahan, vice president of program administration with GRID Alternatives. “Through our model as program administrator and implementer, we’re committed to making solar technology accessible to Californians in low-income households while also providing critical job training, employment opportunities, and consumer protections.”

Prompted by Assembly Bill (AB) 327, the Commission approved the new 12-year program to increase the adoption of clean, affordable solar by residential customers living in disadvantaged communities. To qualify for DAC-SASH, customers must meet income qualifications and live in the top 25 percent most disadvantaged communities statewide using the CalEnviroScreen. GRID Alternatives will host an informational webinar in March to collect stakeholder input on DAC-SASH program development. Registration information is forthcoming.

— Solar Builder magazine

Wells Fargo commits $5 million to GRID Alternatives’ Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund

Wells Fargo tribal solar funding

Wells Fargo is committing $5 million over three years to support solar projects in tribal communities across the U.S. The donation to nonprofit GRID Alternatives, a national leader in making solar technology and training accessible to underserved communities, supports the founding of GRID’s new Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund. The fund is an extension of GRID’s National Tribal Program and aims to catalyze the growth of solar energy and expand solar job opportunities on tribal lands.

“Many tribes are looking to renewable energy to address both environmental and economic challenges in their communities,” said Adam Bad Wound, Vice President of Development for GRID Alternatives. “Access to funding is often the biggest barrier to achieving their goals, and we’re excited to be able to partner with even more tribes to move their solar PV projects forward.”

Support for the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund is a significant component of Wells Fargo’s $50 million philanthropic commitment to help address the unique economic, social, and environmental needs of American Indian/Alaska Native communities that was announced last year. Wells Fargo has been a major supporter of GRID’s state- and national-level programming since 2012.

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GRID Alternatives’ national Tribal Program has worked since 2010 to help tribes achieve their renewable energy goals with solar, while training tribal members to enter the solar workforce. GRID has installed nearly 3 MW of solar capacity in partnership with more than 40 tribes to date. The new fund will expand GRID’s work and provide much-needed capital to support the development of new projects around the U.S.

“Our strong relationships in Indian Country and with our Native American customers are a point of great pride at our company,” said Mary Wenzel, head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Wells Fargo. “We are pleased to have such an effective working relationship with GRID Alternatives and to provide the seed funding for its Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund. We sincerely believe that providing no-cost solar and job-training opportunities in tribal communities will address critical needs and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The Spokane Tribe in Wellpinit, Washington, will be the first to benefit from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, with a grant that will unlock third-party investment capital and $1 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy for a 637 kilowatt solar project. When complete, the project will provide clean power and reduced energy bills for 14 tribal buildings, including elder housing, community facilities and tribal administrative offices.

“After a near disaster during the 2016 Cayuse Mountain Fire, the Tribe now places a premium on energy self-sufficiency,” said Tim Horan, Executive Director of the Spokane Indian Housing Authority. “We expect solar to play a big role in helping us achieve this, and the grant from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund was the last piece of the puzzle to make our first big project happen. We’re grateful to Wells Fargo and GRID Alternatives.”

— Solar Builder magazine

New Belgium Brewing donates $100,000 to GRID Alternatives

new belgium brewing

New Belgium Brewing is donating $100,000 to GRID Alternatives to support its mission to make solar technology accessible to low-income communities, while providing pathways to clean energy jobs. New Belgium has supported GRID Alternatives since 2015 and this latest up-front charitable contribution will be distributed equally ($50,000 each) to the GRID Bay Area and GRID Mid-Atlantic regional offices for completion of regional solar installation projects in underserved communities and training programs in 2018.

“At New Belgium we know renewable energies, like wind and solar, are essential components of a sustainable climate” said New Belgium Assitant Director of Sustainability, Katie Wallace. “GRID Alternatives doubles the benefit by helping in communities where the cost of implementing solar may be out of the typical household’s reach.”

New Belgium’s donation will help GRID Bay Area serve up to 32 families in the Atchison Village neighborhood in Richmond, CA. For GRID Mid-Atlantic, the funds will be used for the highest need projects in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas. The Atchison Village installation will be celebrated with a Solarthon event on June 9.

Once GRID installs solar, residents save up to 90 percent on electricity bills. GRID also provides job training and and hands-on installation experience to residents of disadvantaged communities, many of whom enter a career track and gain employment at solar companies.

“We all deserve to live in places that optimize environmental, economic, and social well-being; places that will be resilient to the human impacts of climate change,” continued Wallace. “GRID makes this possible with their transformative work and New Belgium is proud to offer our support.”

To date, New Belgium has donated over $16 million to worthy organizations throughout the country as part of its philanthropic giving and grants program.

— Solar Builder magazine