Free Solar Panels for Some Low-Income Neighborhoods

Written by Matt Yurus for WUSA9, August 26, 2016 

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - The times, they are a changing in some of D.C.’s lower-income neighborhoods.

Free solar panels are beginning to cover the skyline. It’s all a part of an initiative that the city jump-started in 2012. Now, Washingtonians’ pockets are reaping the benefits.

“We’ve spoken to residents who have been in this community for as many as 40 years,” said Ted Trabue, the managing Director of D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility. “It is really a life-changing event when you can invest in solar rays like this on a home.”

For example, a family of four that makes around $64,000 or less is eligible.

Telana Felder took advantage of the offering. She lives and manages an apartment complex off of Southern Avenue in Southeast. Her utility bill is, on average, about $100 less a month.

She said the extra cash helped her send her son to school and buy a car. 

“I can get up and go when I want,” she said. “Don’t have to wait on the bus, don’t have to wait on the train, just jump in my vehicle and go.”

Residents were a little unsure about the whole idea of free solar panels at first, according to Felder.

“When you start asking people about their income, they think it is big brother watching,” she said. 

Fast forward to August 2016 and more than 50 of the complex’s 90 units have the panels. And neighbors want more, Felder said. 

“This is the way that we’re going, I guess that the country’s going,” Felder said. “And we want to stay up with everybody else.”

Along with the panels, each resident gets an inverter. It helps turn the solar energy collected by the panels into useable electricity in the home. According to Trabue, this inverter is used as opposed to burning fossil fuels, which helps keep our air cleaner. In turn, that slows global warming and improves people’s health.

The panels are installed by D.C. residents. And Trabue said, Mayor Muriel Bowser hopes 100,000 homes have solar panels by 2032.

“Next year we hope that the city has additional funding so we can operate this program year around,” Trabue said.

The initiative is funded by fees collected from utility suppliers that don’t buy enough renewable energy.

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