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In California, Affordable Solar Power for the 99%

It wasn’t too long ago that rooftop solar panels were yet another expensive add-on for high end homes, but then again, it wasn’t too long ago that only the rich kids at your high school could afford pocket calculators, let alone mobile phones. Affordable solar power is starting to make its way down the income ladder, and a pair of statewide California solar programs show how that’s good news for utility customers and taxpayers, too.

affordable solar power in California
Affordable Housing, Affordable Solar Power

One program is MASH, for Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing. That program qualifies eligible buildings for solar incentives. The basic aim of the program is to reduce electricity costs for low-income households, which can help ease the need to subsidize those expenses through utility rates or other public programs.

Included in the package is the goal of raising energy awareness among the occupants and property developers, too.

An even more interesting program is SASH, for Single-family Affordable Solar Homes, funded by multiple public and private sources. It is administered for California by the nonprofit group Grid Alternatives, which works one-on-one to engage low-income families in sustainable energy while promoting workforce development through the state’s booming solar industry.

One reason why rooftop solar panels are so expensive is the “soft costs” of installations including permitting, site design and grid connection. Under the SASH model, Grid Alternatives helps families through the entire process, including filing for rebates.

The SASH model also includes weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades to help the homeowner get the most bang out of the solar installation.

Grid Alternatives is a licensed solar installer as well as a nonprofit, which qualifies it to lead teams of solar industry trainees and other community members through the installation process.

That’s a win for households with lower energy bills and for underemployed workers with new experience that matches in-demand skills, while easing the need for public assistance.
Public Housing and Affordable Solar Power

SASH and MASH apply to privately owned low-income housing, and as it turns out there is a parallel movement afoot in government-owned housing as well.


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