Solar panels installed on low-income homes for free as GRID Alternatives comes to Colorado

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GRID (the acronym stands for "Generating Renewable Ideas for Development Alternatives") is installing twelve solar electric systems for low-income houses in Lakewood this week, making it currently the only program of its kind in the state. The group, which will open a full-time Colorado office in 2013, identified twelve homes -- built by the Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver -- that would benefit from solar panels. The installations began yesterday and will continue through September 29.

The systems will save each family an average of $30,000 over the [corrected] systems' anticipated thirty-year lifespan, and GRID estimates that the combination of all twelve will prevent the release of around 1,300 tons of carbon dioxide -- the equivalent of planting 30,000 trees.

One unique element of the program: The systems are installed at no cost to the homeowners, since GRID has seed funding from Wells Fargo, along with partnerships from two manufacturers that have made major panel donations this year. GRID is also working with some state agencies in Colorado on potential funding for additional projects in 2012.

"Low-income families pay a higher percentage of their income on electricity than anybody else," says Julian Foley, GRID's communication manager. "They are extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in electricity prices."

The twelve families are considered low-income based on Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, standards of income, says Foley, who is in town this week helping to install the panels.

Part of GRID's model involves relying on volunteers and job trainees to actually install the systems; the organization handles all aspects of installation and registration. GRID is now partnering with a group called Veterans Green Jobs, which helps connect vets to clean-tech employment, Foley says.

"We've been working on this model in California, and we feel like it's really ready to be used in other places and can really be effective," Foley says.

The national expansion beginning in Colorado is supported by a five-year, $2 million grant from Wells Fargo.

"We looked at a bunch of different states -- Arizona, New Mexico, New Jersey," she says. "For us, Colorado is a really natural fit. There's a strong solar industry there...and abundant sunshine."

Continue for more on the installation project and GRID Alternatives.

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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin