Most of us are aware of the energy savings that can be gained by having a solar array installed on a home, but the upfront costs of an installation can be a real and insurmountable hurdle for many residents who would benefit from reduced monthly electricity bills.
Solar Works DC is a hands-on job-training program that provides homeowners with access to clean renewable solar energy regardless of their income level.
The program is funded by DC’s Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) and Department of Employment Services (DOES) and implemented by GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, a solar nonprofit installer serving DC, Maryland and Virginia.
Solar Works DC provides installations at no cost for income-qualified homeowners. It operates under the “Solar for All” funding umbrella as part of DC’s initiative to ensure that solar is accessible to everyone in the city, while helping the District meet its climate and energy goals. The program provides solar energy to lower-income homeowners and also provides a 12-week, hands-on job-training course for area residents.
The US solar industry has a projected growth of approximately 30 percent through 2020. Since its inception in 2017, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic has trained 100 area residents in solar technology through the Solar Works DC program, and many of the graduates have found employment in the growing solar and other renewable energy sectors.
Linda Donaldson is just one DC homeowner who is benefitting from the installation of a solar array on her home. A lifelong DC resident and first-time homebuyer, Donaldson purchased her Ward 7 home this past December. After hearing about GRID from neighbors who had solar arrays installed on their homes, she applied to Solar Works DC over the summer.
Now that the system is installed, Donaldson’s 3.42 kW, 12-solar-panel array is estimated to save $550 on her electric bill annually, money that she’ll put toward her mortgage. And solar is proving to be a good long-term home investment as well. A 2015 New York Times article reported that buyers were willing to pay an average of $15,000 more for a home that had a 3.6 kW system.
To date, 66 DC homeowners have had solar arrays installed through the Solar Works DC program. Combined, these installations are generating 243 kW of solar energy, saving homeowners approximately $976,000 while preventing over 6,300 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being emitted over the systems’ estimated 25-year lifetime. According to the EPA, this savings is equivalent to keeping 1,349 vehicles off the road.
GRID is pleased to be playing a major role in this initiative. “GRID strives to make jobs in the solar industry more accessible by giving trainees the skills needed to get a leg up in the industry,” notes Executive Director Nicole Steele. “We are happy to partner with DOEE and DOES to implement Solar Works DC, bringing much needed energy savings to under-resourced communities while creating opportunity for good career pathways in those same communities.”
Meanwhile, DOEE Director Tommy Wells is excited about the program. “I couldn’t be prouder of the progress made so far by Solar Works DC. Programs like this help integrate our DC values of equity and inclusion into our work to achieve Mayor Bowser’s goal of achieving a 100-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the District by 2050, setting the District apart from the pack as a climate leader.”
While Donaldson is pleased to have the solar array on her home, the idea that the systems were installed as part of a job-training initiative makes her very proud. “I know how hard it can be to gain marketable job skills for many DC area residents,” she remarks. “The crew was very respectful and professional. Through this Solar Works DC program, I’ve been able to reduce my home energy costs, save money, help DC meet its clean energy goals and help build a viable job training program. It just doesn’t get any better than that! And, I can’t wait to see the difference in my electric bill.”
Interested in seeing if Solar Works DC could install an array on your home? Would you like to join the job-training program? Contact GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic at 202-602-0191 or [email protected].
Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer and a blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler. She is also a board member and the conservation chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, but the perspectives expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.