Is Solar Energy an Option for Low & Moderate Income Families?


Solar technology is fast becoming the way of the future, as anyone staying up to date on solar news will understand. As solar energy technology itself becomes less expensive, more people are opting to have panels installed at their residential and commercial properties. But what happens to people with lower or even moderate incomes who are fascinated by solar energy and want to have advanced technology such as solar panels installed? Having knowledge about the benefits of solar energy leads to an interest in many.

Unfortunately, even though the benefits of solar energy are in fact very appealing, the cost is sometimes still too much for lower income families. This leaves people wanting to take advantage of the numerous environmental and financial benefits offered by solar energy, but they find themselves questioning their ability to afford it.

In places such as Florida, Arizona and Georgia, electric bills can be quite expensive. This is a factor in terms of why solar energy is important. Older two-bedroom homes under 1,000 square feet in central Florida, for instance, often see electric bills in the ballpark of $200 per month – and that’s with the interior home temperature set to 75 degrees. These rates can cause families to shut off their air conditioner altogether, unless it is too much of a health risk to keep it off completely. Even in the case in which it is a health risk, some people are taking their chances. For reasons such as this, solar energy is more important than ever. Solar energy can be used to make the world a better, healthier place. Solar energy can be used to save money and make lives better.

Here’s the issue with a lower income or even a moderate income family spending a couple hundred dollars per month on electric and failing to take advantage of solar energy: when one couples $200 per month for electricity with a mortgage payment in a place where lower income jobs are the norm, then one is left having to choose between buying groceries or paying a bill. Cutting the electric bill by dealing with the heat and turning off the air conditioning in a place such as Orlando, FL can leave a family having to deal with sweltering temperatures, often up to 100 degrees at certain times of the year. This is more than just unhealthy – it is downright dangerous. Solar energy becomes more desirable than ever when considering these potential concerns. When will problems such as dealing with discomfort and potential dangers because of soaring electric costs become a thing of the past? Hopefully, the answer is sooner rather than later with the latest innovations being made in terms of solar energy. More people than ever are interested in solar energy. More people than ever recognize how beneficial solar energy truly is.

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to wonder: where could solar energy possibly come in to play when one is working with a tight income? How could solar energy benefit low income or even moderate income families and communities? Could an individual living paycheck to paycheck ever afford the initial payment to take advantage of solar energy? Once a family makes the decision to go in the innovative direction of solar energy, they are sure to find themselves saving money.

The issue starts with the inability for individuals of certain incomes to be able to obtain the lump sum needed to purchase a solar energy system. Yes, there is a cost for setting up a solar energy system. Unfortunately, too many people are unable to afford it and therefore they miss out on solar energy. Once that lump sum to get started with the use of solar energy is obtained, it is a given that there isn’t a cost for sunshine, which makes the cost for solar energy very minimal after the initial investment. When one doesn’t make enough money to even cover their basic bills and meals, securing extra funding is obviously a challenge. This leaves many low income families unable to install solar energy panels on their roof because they merely are unable to afford it– so how are they supposed to reap the benefits of solar energy? What are they supposed to do if they recognize the significance of solar energy but can’t seem to be able to afford to take advantage of it?

This is where the Solar in Your Community Challenge comes in. This is an organization which truly understands the importance of solar energy – it’s an organization that has the goal of bringing solar energy to all Americans. Here is one way in which they are trying to ensure this happens: the organization of solar energy-focused individuals has implemented a $5 million contest with the goal of supporting groundbreaking community-based solar energy business models that will allow solar energy to become available in lower income or under-deserved communities.  As per, low and moderate income households represent a large portion of the United States – more specifically, they represent 40% of the population in America. However, fewer than 5% of this portion are solar energy customers. This doesn’t seem right when the fact is, solar energy would ultimately lower bills. The reason that more people aren’t taking advantage of solar energy is simple. Lower income households have to deal with numerous barriers when it comes to taking advantage of solar energy. The primary issues which non-profits, government organizations and lower income or moderate income households face when it comes to the desire to implement and utilize solar energy include poor credit history or no credit history; a shortage of financing choices; and a lack of access to the Federal Investment Tax Credit. Having an awareness of these concerns with regards to being able to benefit from solar energy as a society can help our country to make the appropriate changes and to come up with innovative solar energy projects which will make a difference. This is something that we must work on, especially having an understanding of how important solar energy is.

In the meantime, there is an upside.

Recently, a solar energy-focused team in Brunswick, GA was able to get assistance when it was awarded $15,000 from the Department of Energy – the even better news is that the innovative solar energy project might be eligible for more money. Travis Stegall is Brunswick’s economic and community development director and his plan is to take advantage of the perks of solar energy. He intends to use the money to install solar panels on a vacant field – the next step is to sell the power to Georgia Power, which is the local utility company, for a rebate. Energy costs will be subsidized with the reimbursement funds. Stegall’s hope is that bringing in more companies to install and provide the solar panels will help to keep the cost down when it comes to solar energy, as the $15,000 grant doesn’t cover the total cost of the panels – rather, it covers roughly a quarter of the overall price. It is understood that working together collectively can help to reduce the costs of solar energy for lower income and moderate income property owners. If the costs of solar energy are lessened, and more people take advantage of the fantastic benefits offered by solar energy, we will be left with a country that is more environmentally-friendly than it has been in a very long time.  Solar energy isn’t just a perk – it is a must. Solar energy is irrefutably important when it comes to our environment, climate and well-being.

According to Amit Ronen of George Washington University’s Solar Institute, the answer is not necessarily easy when it comes to finances, though. This is especially true when discussing concerns about the costs of solar energy.

“The trick is, you have to pay for a lump sum up front, capital to basically buy the system, and there’s no further cost after that; sunshine is free. But how do you get that lump sum up front in order to get those benefits long-term?”

That question is critical. Solar energy is something that clearly warrants attention. People today are drawn to energy-friendly alternatives, which explains why businesses are now being drawn to Brunswick, GA: they are fascinated by the aforementioned solar energy project and understand the potential benefits of solar energy. When the newest focus is to be an energy-efficient company, solar energy and its perks become a major topic of discussion. Solar energy is something that people are now talking about. Companies, as well as families and individuals, understand that solar panels absorb the sun’s rays and produce electricity. This is a given. So long as a property receives an adequate amount of sunlight, the savings that come along with utilizing solar energy are quite attractive, not to mention the benefits to the environment when it comes to taking advantage of solar energy. People want renewable energy for their commercial properties and for their homes; consequently, they understand that solar energy will offset their standard electric costs. Luckily, the cost of solar panels is dropping. Considering all of these factors with regards to solar energy, it is a given that companies would want to take advantage of solar energy – they want to save money and they want to better the planet. Hence, solar energy is the way to go.

Currently, there are a handful of local utilities and communities trying to make solar energy a reality in their day to day lives. As a matter of fact, as per the Solar Energy Industries Association, 26,000 homes in Virginia were solar powered as of mid-September. That is an impressive number of properties benefiting from solar energy. Additionally, over the last five years, there has been a price decline of 55% when it comes to solar energy. These numbers are very promising. Solar energy can be made affordable but more importantly, solar energy needs to become affordable.

It is important to invite visionaries all over the country to work with chief stakeholders in local communities to discover, test and then bring new solar energy models to life which will formulate new solar markets that can be taken advantage of by lower income non-profits, households and local governments. It is important to have innovators work together when it comes to solar energy! Bettering the planet and helping people to save money is the challenge – it is something that everyone should care about. Solar energy is more than just important; as previously mentioned, it is the way of the future.

What can we do to get on the path towards being a country that values and takes advantage of the perks of solar energy? Innovators in solar energy can put together a team that will work together to create and organize scalable community-based solar energy projects through the Solar in Your Community Challenge. The goal is to serve 60% of non-profits or 20% of lower and moderate income households. Solar energy projects must be submitted and finished by October 31, 2018. All one has to do is register on the platform and send in an application to take part in this admirable endeavor. Click here to learn more and to get involved in this solar energy project.

Teams that register for this esteemed solar energy project have the chance to win a $500,000 Grand Prize. The Grand Prize will be awarded to the team of innovators that most successfully establish a scalable solar energy model. Up to $5 million in prizes and technical help will be granted through DOE throughout this solar energy competition. There will be up to $2 million in technical help, up to $2 million in seed prizes and $1 million in final prizes. The money awarded will surely be put to good use. The goal is to expand access to solar energy across the United States.

The fact is, we have an unhealthy relationship with energy. Regrettably, the planet itself as well as the people and animals living on it are the ones paying for it. We need to focus on continuing to make solar energy the way of the future, and it is important that low income and moderate income families and communities are able to reap the benefits of solar energy. Solar energy shouldn’t only be accessible by the most affluent members of society.

It is essential to note that the benefits solar energy has to offer are far-reaching. When one community takes advantage of solar energy, the rest of the planet benefits as well. It seems that the desire to protect the environment and to save money are steady interests across communities all over the United States. The next step is making solar energy a possibility for lower income families. When solar energy is made available to everyone, the benefits will be boundless.

Follow up with current solar news to discover the latest undertakings in regards to solar energy. Solar energy truly is the way of the future, and it is going to serve as a way in which we can improve the planet while also saving money. We must remember that solar energy is not for a select, small group of people or businesses – solar energy is for all of us. Solar energy must be taken seriously by all of us.



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Carissa lives in Florida with her dachshund and enjoys traveling all over the country. She has been a writer for more than a decade, previously having worked for the Walt Disney Company. Her interests include exploring National Parks, hiking, crafting and cooking.


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