Pilot Project Seeks to Bring Solar Power to Low-income Communities

Solar United Neighbors and City of Indianapolis to help 20 low- and middle-income homes transition to solar power at no cost
January 9, 2020

A pilot project is looking for Indianapolis homeowners interested in making the switch to solar power without spending a dime.

The non-profit national organization Solar United Neighbors and the City of Indianapolis have teamed up find 20 low- and middle-income homeowners willing to install a solar energy system on their roof, but unable to do so because of the cost.

The pilot project uses grant funding to provide the solar and energy efficiency upgrades for free for up to 20 Indianapolis homeowners at or below 80% of the area median income, which comes out to about $63,900 a year for a family of four.

chart of income requirements
Low income program income requirements

“We really want to make sure that the program is a step in a more inclusive and more equitable direction for our clean energy transition,” said Zach Schalk, Indiana program director for Solar United Neighbors. “Folks who are able to invest in solar can install solar on their roofs for the most part, but that leaves a lot of people behind who can’t afford to make that investment on their own. So, we think that solar energy should be able to benefit not just folks who have a lot of money to invest.”

Schalk said the project is a positive step in a more equitable and just direction.

In addition to income requirements, homeowners will also be subject to a roof review that will be carried out by the company performing the solar installation. Schalk said that during the review, installers will assess the structural integrity of the homeowner’s roof and whether it is large enough for solar installation.

“This will allow [participants] to fully own the system even though the funding is coming from a grant,” said Schalk. “They’ll be able to benefit from the 26% federal investment tax credit. They’ll also benefit from increased property value and no increase in taxes thanks to the state’s renewable energy tax exclusion. But most importantly, they’ll be able to save big bucks on their electric bill from day one.”

Besides help for lower income residents, Solar United Neighbors also helps Hoosiers band together to purchase solar power systems in bulk at a lower price than they would if they tried to purchase them independently.

The number of solar power cooperatives like these is making a difference in bringing down prices and increasing solar availability throughout the state of Indiana.

solar installation graph
Source - SEIA

Although solar power only makes up 0.42% of the state’s electricity, prices for solar power systems and components have decreased by 36% over the last five years.

The state of Indiana is climbing the ranks when it comes to solar power. In 2018, the Solar Energy Industries Association ranked the state 27th for solar power installations. The state’s ranking rose to 23rd best in 2019. The state also ranks 11th best for solar power growth projections over the next five years.

Solar United Neighbors plans to hold informational meetings about the pilot project and other programs throughout the year. Hoosiers can register for the pilot project or for the information sessions at the organization’s website.

Pilot Project Seeks to Bring Solar Power to Low-income Communities