CCEnergy + GRID Alternatives = Solar for low-income families

Democratizing solar energy

CCEnergy supports and contributes to the work of GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that develops environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable renewable energy solutions for low-income individuals and households. CCEnergy supplies solar equipment and tracks California Energy Commission rebates for many GRID Alternative projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since early 2005, CCEnergy and GRID Alternatives have worked together on numerous projects totalling more than 36,000 installed watts, including several Habitat for Humanity housing projects.

"This is part of the CCEnergy's larger mission to give back to the community," says CCEnergy President and Founder Dan Pellegrini. "We do sell a lot of solar systems to upper income homeowners, so if we really want to democratize solar energy, we have to make it available to lower income people."

Managing solar projects for affordable housing developments has long been a regular part of CCEnergy's business, but "this is different," Pellegrini adds. "GRID Alternative projects with Habitat for Humanity are not multifamily housing developments for renters. These are low-income homeowners." The business aspect of CCEnergy's partnership with GRID Alternatives is limited to supplying equipment at cost, yet the two organizations's mutual commitment to removing the barriers to solar energy goes well beyond a supplier relationship.

Part of GRID Alternatives' program involves training and leading installation teams of volunteers, which can and does include the homeowners themselves. Several CCEnergy staff members and field reps have worked on these installation teams. This approach enables GRID to install the solar systems for "free" to reduce overall costs. That is, homeowners don't have to pay for installation services, but they must still pay for the solar equipment. CCEnergy helps to makes this more affordable for them by furnishing the equipment at cost and absorbing the shipping costs. GRID Alternatives also works with other solar equipment vendors, as well as local governments, housing agencies, and financial institutions to arrange special low- or no-interest financing for eligible homeowners.

"Our relationship with CCEnergy is a huge benefit to the families we serve," says Zach Franklin, GRID Alternatives' Development Director. Because high utility costs hit low-income families most severely, "we provide the greatest benefit to people with the least access," he adds. "By offering a practical solution to practical problems, we're creating a model to change some of the perceptions about solar energy."

Given the current worldwide module shortage in the solar industry, CCEnergy's mission to "make solar easy and affordable" has grown even more challenging lately. CCEnergy is constantly seeking out new relationships with solar manufacturers and partnerships with emerging solar companies working on next-generation solar technology to meet the energy needs of such GRID Alternatives projects along with other segments of the Co-op's growing solar business.

Habitat for Humanity projects with CCEnergy and GRID Alternatives

Here are some Habitat for Humanity housing projects in the San Francisco Bay Area that CCEnergy and GRID Alternatives collaboratively helped to reduce utility costs for low-income families.

Habitat East Bay's Livermore Development

  • Three-phase development with a total of 22 homes
  • Solar systems for nine homes in Phase 1 completed in 2005
  • Solar systems for six homes in Phase 2 completed in 2006
  • Phase 3 to be completed in Spring 2007

Habitat San Francisco's Mission Street Homes Project

  • 8 high-rise condos in downtown San Francisco (SOMA) occupied by low-income families, the tallest Habitat project in the world
  • Serves common area meter for 8-unit development to power shared power uses such as garage lighting, elevator
  • CCEnergy supplied inverters and racking equipment; solar modules supplied by another vendor
  • Completed in August 2005

Habitat San Francisco's De Long Terrace Development (Phases 2-3)

  • 12 homes, four-phase installation
  • 100% solar planned. Every single home in development will have solar

For more information, visit the GRID Alternatives web site.

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