First Solar Panel System Installed in Low Income Housing Makes Renewable Energy Affordable

May 23, 2012

For the longest time solar power has been limited to communities and homes in higher income areas. A new solar power installation in Northeast Denver, Colorado is showing that this form of renewable energy need not be limited to exclusive properties limited to the real estate elite. Most solar systems run in the several thousand dollars range for a single family dwelling. The costs are greatly multiplied for installing them in multiple family dwellings.

This solar panel installation is the first to be placed in a low income housing project. This project was made possible through a series of US grants and special discounts from the solar panel manufacturers. Since its been installed, the prices of solar panels has come down even more, making the prospect of renewable energy for people at all income levels more than possible.

For instance, the Whittier Affordable Housing Project (WAHP) that installed these panels received a $2 per kWh upfront cash incentive to help reduce the initial costs of purchasing the solar panels. Also, the buildings that the panels are installed on are smaller than average, allowing WAHP to get away with using a slightly less expensive 1.88-kW solar system for each unit.

Some of the incentives and grants used to help lower the price of the solar panels were one off deals, but other programs are being developed all the time. Solar panel manufacturers may provide discounts on bulk purchases of their products. The IRS also provides a 30% tax credit for people investing in renewable energy.

This particular installation consists of solar panels attached to the roofs of low income homes and apartments, which provide extra power for the people living in those homes. These panels have lowered the electric rate for those living in these buildings from a high of .95/kWh to a very affordable .08/kWh. That brings the monthly electric bills down to just dollars a month. These systems help supply about 85% of the tenant’s energy needs. Part of this major energy savings is due to energy retrofits in the buildings with new energy efficient insulation, lighting, and building envelope improvements.

With the installation of the first solar panel system in a low income housing project, WHAP has demonstrated that renewable energy really is becoming accessible to everyone. Plus, these solar panel help make the costs of living even lower for people in the lowest income groups.

Photo Credit: Edmund Tse via Flicker Creative Commons



Chris Keenan

is a green and general blog writer. He also maintains a personal cooking blog.