LAKEWOOD, Colo. – Some low-income Coloradans now have a way to, at least partially, opt out of the “grid” – thanks to solar panels. The panels were installed at twelve homes in Lakewood last week. They were provided through a partnership with the California non-profit GRID Alternatives, Wells Fargo Bank and Habitat for Humanity.
Heather Lafferty, executive director and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, says the solar panels can make a big difference in family budgets.
“Working and living on a very fixed income, there’s not a lot of extra if your energy bill one month is significantly high.”
She says solar panels can save families on average $75 every month in energy costs. The twelve homes were just the first in what Habitat for Humanity hopes will be a long partnership. They’re hoping to install solar panels in about 100 Denver-area homes in the next year, allowing families to stay on the electricity grid when the weather is cloudy, and tap into solar power when it isn’t.
GRID Alternatives is on board with that plan. Co-founder Erica Mackie says they’re opening a Denver office next year. She says they can both install panels for homes and help volunteer workers on the projects get trained in a fast-growing industry.
“The biggest thing that we’re doing is really being this solar teaching hospital. As more residential and utility-scale solar goes up in Colorado, the folks who volunteer and get trained with us will be able to get jobs.”
Lafferty says this sort of assistance can make a big difference to families who are struggling. One father told her he knows where that extra money is going, she says.
“He told me how now he’s really going to be able to afford to help his children go to college, and he’ll be able to increase his savings, someday for him and his wife to be able to retire.”
The GRID Alternatives project has been hailed as a success in California, bringing solar panels to more than 2,000 low-income homes, and providing enough clean energy to rival a small power plant.