Free electricity for low-income Clevelanders

Pilot program will install solar panels for those who meet income requirements
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 5:09 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - “They can apply and potentially get a solar system on their roof, totally grant-funded,” said Tristan Rader of Solar United Neighbors, Cleveland. “We’re not looking to charge anybody.”

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb has teamed up with Solar United Neighbors on a plan to test solar in the City of Cleveland while helping those who need help with energy bills.

“We know we have to subsidize these systems in order to get solar into low-income communities so we can understand what those barriers are and address those barriers and move forward,” said Rader.

Rader says they’re looking for about ten families initially and, once the panels get installed, as early as this year, the cost of electricity will be low.

“What they are getting from the solar panels is electricity at no cost to them at all,” said Anand Natarajan, Energy Manager for the City of Cleveland.

Paul Schroder in Old Brooklyn was in the first county co-op to purchase panels five years ago.

“Six months out of the year we get no bill,” said Schroeder. “The bill comes but it says ‘zero.’”

Solar power leaves a smaller carbon footprint and is more environmentally friendly. If you’re interested in the program and are a Cleveland homeowner at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can log on to Solar United Neighbors’ website.

“If you check those boxes, you could potentially have a system on your roof at no charge to you,” said Rader. “In exchange, we want to make sure we can continue to monitor that system, make sure you’re receiving the savings from that system, and study that so we can see the value of solar, the impact of solar in all communities really is.”

These solar discounts are not just available to low-income Clevelanders. Cuyahoga County wants to get solar power to more people of every income level.

“The County Sustainability Office is working on this rooftop solar buyer’s co-op,” said Rader. “We pull together anywhere from fifty to a hundred and fifty people and we help this group of folks go solar, we use that bulk demand to get the best deal possible and quality for a local installer to come do that work.”

The man in the county’s first co-op five years ago gave the panels an endorsement.

“I can’t complain about this at all,” said Schroeder. “It’s the best thing that we’ve done.”

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