Connecticut

Connecticut Green Bank Makes Active Effort to Boost Solar in Communities of Color

Connecticut Green Bank Makes Active Effort to Boost Solar in Communities of Color 150 150 Joshua Jones

CT is changing the trend of disparity regarding solar adoption in communities of color.

According to figures from Connecticut Green Bank, adoption of solar in communities of color is on the rise. This is due to Green Banks successful efforts to make solar energy more affordable for homeowners in these communities, as well as low-to-moderate income (LMI) households by actively engaging these traditionally unserved communities.

In the past seven years, the number of rooftop solar installations has increased by more than 50% per year. However, in many states, communities of color haven’t joined in this rapid adoption of solar. A 2019 Tufts University study found that majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods have installed less rooftop solar compared to neighborhoods with No Majority race by 61% and 45%, respectively, while majority White neighborhoods installed 37% more.

Addressing the Problem

Green Bank launched the Residential Solar Investment Program (RSIP) in 2012 to make rooftop solar installations more affordable. This provided Connecticut homeowners with rebates and performance-based incentives (PBI) meant to lower the initial out-of-pocket costs. RSIP has helped over 30,000 households add solar to date. They continue to approach the current 300 megawatt program allocation. The Green Bank and it’s Board of Directors addressed an observed income disparity in solar adoption in 2015. They added special incentives for low and moderate income households to the residential solar program. Thus quickly accelerated solar adoption in low and moderate income communities.

Recent studies show that this has also been very successful in reaching communities of color in the state. Today, on a per owner-occupied household basis, there are 86 percent more RSIP installations in majority Black neighborhoods, 18 percent more in majority Hispanic neighborhoods, and 20 percent more in No Majority race neighborhoods as compared to majority White neighborhoods.

Solar For All

The Green Bank’s Solar for All program has been a primary driver of democratic access to solar energy in the state. The organization released a request for proposals seeking contractors to help reach under served markets in 2015. This RFP resulted in their partnership with solar provider PosiGen and the creation of the Solar for All program.

Solar for All utilizes Green Bank’s elevated incentive to offer LMI homeowners a solar lease along with energy efficiency upgrades. The upgrades are customized for each home and include air sealing, LED light bulbs, pipe wrap and programmable thermostats. These are in addition to the measures installed as part of the state’s Home Energy Solutions (HES) program. PosiGen’s Solar for All program has been even more successful than the overall RSIP program in reaching communities of color. PosiGen has more projects per home in majority Black (1275%), Hispanic (408%) and No Majority race (427%) neighborhoods than in majority White neighborhoods.

“In 2015, when we realized that all homeowners in Connecticut did not have access to the benefits of the clean energy economy, our mission compelled us to act. This study confirms that the response to our programs in under served communities of color has been even more positive than we anticipated,” said Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of Green Bank. “Today, there are still significant opportunities for residential solar growth in owner-occupied homes across the state, and we are committed to working with partners like PosiGen to continue to make green energy available and affordable for all Connecticut neighborhoods.”

Green Bank to Boost Solar in Communities of Color

Solar Array at Middletown water treatment planr

Greenskies Installs Solar Array for Middletown Water Treatment Facility

Greenskies Installs Solar Array for Middletown Water Treatment Facility 960 540 Joshua Jones

Middletown calling it a victory for the local economy and environment!

City officials praised the installation of a 714-panel solar array to help off-set the effects of the “single largest energy hog in the city” – its water treatment plant. These solar panels, installed June 2018 by Greenskies Renewable Energy, are projected to save the city 280,000 kilowatts of electricity per year.

“This is an important project, especially now with people conserving more and more water, and the demand for water is trending downward. Without this project, we would eventually need to raise rates. It will produce clean water using less electricity from the grid, which, in turn, helps stabilize water rates we charge customers,” said Joe Fazzino, acting director of Middletown Water & Sewer.

The solar array, installed at the Higby water treatment plant on the Middletown line, are projected to power 75-85 percent of facility’s electricity usage.

Many were delighted that the city enlisted a Middletown-based small business to complete the project including State Sennator Len Suzio and R-Meriden. Greenskies, which paid for the system and installation, are selling the power produced to Middletown at a discounted rate over the next 20 years, as per their contract. This firm has also installed solar arrays on the roof of the city-owned R.M. Keating Historical Enterprise Park on Johnson Street where its office is based.

The project is estimated to save the city $9,00 annually in electricity costs, greatly reducing the environmental effects of burning fossil fuels. Emission rates are expected to be one tenth of the previous total output at the water treatment plant. This project, which had been in the making for about 6 years. It was started in late fall of 2017 and completed in the spring of 2018 according to the vice president of construction at Greenskies, John Beauton.

In Connecticut, as well as other parts of the northeast, peak solar months are July through September when the sun’s elevation is lower and there is less sunlight, mentioned Beauton. In the winter months, output is low due to the concentrated snowfall, particularly January and February, he added.

Jeff Hush, member of the city’s Clean Energy Task Force, represents low-income interests on the panel. Comfortable, Healthy, Energy Efficient and Renewable Middletown, dubbed CHEER, is a collaboration between the task force, North End Action Team, Home Energy Services, New England Conservation Services, Sunlight Solar and others which hopes to lessen the city’s dependence on fossil fuels. The task force is increasing it’s efforts to improve housing costs for low- and middle-income communities in Middletown, who carry an energy burden disproportionate to their household income.

“With the solar project, we are able to produce clean, potable water using less electricity from the grid,” said Acting Water and Sewer Director Joseph Fazzino. “This is a very important project, especially now with people conserving more and more water, the demand for water is trending downward. Without this project we would eventually need to raise rates, so this will help us stabilize our water rates. Nobody really likes to have their water rates going up.”