Solar savings mean more to low-income families than to anyone else. A 2011 study found that households earning between $10,000 and $30,000 per year spent 23% of their after-tax income on energy – more than twice the national average of 11%.
That’s why money raised during our Solarize programs goes into a Sharing Solar fund to help low-income homeowners and renters go solar.
Sharing Solar Projects
Our first project was to put solar on 4 affordable housing units owned by Durham Community Land Trustees (DCLT). The system — which is expected to save the tenants $1,700 a year on electricity costs — was installed in October 2015 and celebrated with a ribbon-cutting on November 6 (see photos below — and more photos here).
Durham Community Land Trustees is a nonprofit that builds strong communities by developing, managing and advocating for permanently affordable housing that offers Durham residents with low and moderate incomes a stable foundation for achieving economic security.
We installed an 11.55-kilowatt solar power system on the DCLT quadruplex of apartments at 811 Carroll Street in Durham. The system was installed by Yes! Solar Solutions, the Cary company that installed solar on 33 Durham roofs during NC WARN’s 2014 Solarize Durham campaign.
NC WARN provided $20,000 toward the installation cost from the Sharing Solar fund. Volunteers from RePowering Durham — a project anchored by NC WARN — raised the remaining $22,851 from solar fans across the state who believe everyone in North Carolina should have access to clean, affordable power.
Since the building is owned by a nonprofit (DCLT) and donations were being used to install solar, donors are entitled to take the 35% North Carolina renewable energy tax credit on their 2015 taxes. Along with the charitable donation deduction on their Federal taxes, they will get as much as 50% of their money back! (More info on the tax credit here. Page 8 of this NC Department of Revenue publication shows that the credit may be taken by donors to nonprofits.) Unfortunately, the NC legislature failed to extend the state renewable energy tax credit past the end of 2015, so this benefit will not be available in future years.
Why Share Solar?
Duke Energy and others say that solar hurts the poor because poor people can’t afford solar power. However, as NC WARN has reported, Duke and other utilities lobby against policies that would allow lower-income homeowners to install solar for no money down. Our Sharing Solar projects are one of the best ways you can help share solar with your neighbors whose access to solar is being blocked.
Stay tuned for more Sharing Solar projects! And let us know if you have ideas for how to share solar benefits with low- and fixed-income North Carolinians.