Expanding Solar’s Reach to Low-Income Individuals

Keith Ross, Simon Ross and Louise Doud in Warwick  pose for a photo in front of the new 6.4 kW solar system on their roof, installed by Co-op Power and NuWatt as one of the first installations for Rays the Valley.
Keith Ross, Simon Ross and Louise Doud in Warwick pose for a photo in front of the new 6.4 kW solar system on their roof, installed by Co-op Power and NuWatt as one of the first installations for Rays the Valley.

A federal grant is powering an effort to bring solar energy into more local low-income homes.

Rays the Valley, a partnership between local organizations that aims on making solar array subscriptions affordable for everyone, received $60,000 from the federal Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity. The partnership is made up of Co-op Power, Climate Action Now, Mothers Out Front, Community Action, Resident Energy, as well as the town of Whately, according to Co-op Power CEO and President Lynn Benander.

Keith Ross, Simon Ross and Louise Doud in Warwick  pose for a photo in front of the new 6.4 kW solar system on their roof, installed by Co-op Power and NuWatt as one of the first installations for Rays the Valley.

Keith Ross, Simon Ross and Louise Doud in Warwick pose for a photo in front of the new 6.4 kW solar system on their roof, installed by Co-op Power and NuWatt as one of the first installations for Rays the Valley.

“If the energy of the future is solar and other renewable energy, then everybody needs access to it,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense for only wealthy white folks to have that.”

Benander said Rays the Valley is exploring options for urban and rural areas, including building a 2.8 megawatt solar generating project this fall on the rooftop of the former Spalding Building in Chicopee. That project would bring discounted power to other municipalities throughout Western Massachusetts.

With the grant’s help, Rays the Valley is planning over the next year to facilitate the installation of 2.5 megawatts of solar panels on the roofs or in the parking lots of low-income homes, nonprofit buildings, and churches, Benander said. One megawatt can supply power to 200 homes.

For those whose houses make poor sites for solar panels of their own, people can buy a solar subscription to a three megawatt source located in the Berkshires and save 15 percent off their electrical bills from Eversource or National Grid through use of solar credits, she said.

“We’re trying to get people the best deals possible,” she said.

Saul Perlmutter, a member of Climate Action Now and the lead organizer of Rays the Valley, said Rays the Valley was one of 35 projects nationwide that was chosen for the SunShot initiative.

“This is all going to generate clean energy that will reduce carbon footprints and that will help us move towards a cleaner world,” he said.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@valleyadvocate.com.

Author: Chris Goudreau

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