What is community solar?

Community solar looks just like any other solar project you might have seen. The thing that makes it different is that community solar projects generate electricity that you can share. What that means is, for example, a local church could install a solar project on its own roof that provides electricity for its members, or an apartment building could install solar on its roof that provides electricity for the people who live in the building.

Before community solar came along, the only people who could enjoy solar power were people who owned their own roof, had a good credit score, and could afford the up-front payments. Community solar means everyone, regardless of whether you rent or own or have good credit, can have access to solar energy.

Where is Groundswell building community solar projects?

Groundswell is building community solar projects in partnership with faith communities and other community-based organizations in the District, including solar projects on the rooftops of local churches in Wards 4, 5, and 7 so far. Some of the solar projects we’re building are part of the Solar for All DC program, which will provide 100% of the electricity generated for free to DC residents with a household income of less than $65,650. DC residents who enroll in Solar for All DC should save about $500 per year on their Pepco bill – so the savings are real.

We’re also building community solar projects that enable people to Share Power, delivering the same deep utility bill savings to our neighbors who need the savings the most.

How does Groundswell Share Power?

Groundswell’s Share Power community solar program was directly inspired by asking ourselves how to “love our neighbors as ourselves” using the abundance of energy from the sun.

If you live in the District of Columbia and pay a Pepco bill, you can purchase locally generated electricity from one of Groundswell’s solar projects for less than $50 per month, which is about the same you pay the utility for dirty power. Groundswell then shares the solar savings generated from the project with income-qualified households to help cut their electricity bills in half. For example, for one of the community solar projects we’re building in DC Ward 5, for every three families who sign up to get locally generated power, we’ll be able to enroll one income-qualified family who’ll be able to save about $500 per year. We think it’s a wonderful way to work together as a community to lift each other up.

Why is sharing power with others so important?

The bottom line is that it’s expensive to be poor. All across America, including in Washington DC, the people who have the least household incomes have the highest utility bills. In fact, nationally the poorest 20% of Americans pay 10% more of their entire household income to keep the lights on. Why? Because families who are working hard to make ends meet typically live in less energy-efficient houses and apartments and have older appliances that use more energy.

That’s why Groundswell’s Share Power program was created to enable neighbors to help neighbors. Families who want to get their power from a local solar project can, while at the same time, help local families who need energy savings cut their bills.

How does Groundswell create economic opportunity in our community?

Washington, DC is Groundswell’s hometown, and our vision is that solar power should be a “Made in DC” industry. That’s just one reason why we hire locally and work with local minority and women-owned businesses to install our solar projects. The companies we work with are also committed to the community and practice what they preach by providing job training through their work. Finally, we shine a light on where and how the DC solar market needs to improve to represent the beautiful diversity of our neighborhoods.

The way we see it, the District has a thriving solar market thanks to its commitment to run on 100% clean, renewable energy. The solar industry projects that about $300 million will be invested to build solar projects in the District over the next five years, and every single solar panel will cut utility bills, create jobs, and build wealth. But the question we will always ask is: for whom?

How do you sign up?

If you live in Washington, DC and you pay a Pepco bill, just go to our website at www.groundswell.org/informer and fill out the interest form on our home page and will be in touch with more details and community solar participation availability.

If you or someone you know is, or thinks they may be, income-qualified for free solar through the Solar for All DC program, please call our Customer Engagement Team at 443.598.6773.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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