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Davis, California

Monday, February 26, 2024

GRID Alternatives brings solar energy to Davis

GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that offers solar technology to qualifying low-income households, partnered with the City of Davis in May 2013 to help Davis homeowners save money while being environmentally friendly.

The organization will install solar electric systems either at a low cost or for free for households that depend on those needed savings for their homes. These households are also a part of the Davis Home Improvement Loan Program, a program that became effective in spring 2013.

The Home Improvement Loan Program was created by NeighborWorks Homeownership Center Sacramento Region and the City of Davis in order to make housing more accessible and available to Davis residents.

According to the City of Davis City Manager’s office, the goals of the Home Improvement Loan Program include helping households who have family members with disabilities and seniors citizens undertaking home improvements in order to function more comfortably and easily in their own homes. This program makes home improvement projects and loans more affordable to the community members.

“The City [of Davis] chose to award the GRID Alternatives program through our federal HOME dollars and we are hopeful that they will be able to assist lower income residents who might benefit from solar on their homes,” said Kelly Stachowicz, City of Davis deputy city manager. “We see this program as a win-win: lower income residents save money on utilities and the community reduces our overall greenhouse gas emissions.”

Process of installation

GRID Alternatives will use renewable energy and energy efficiency services through this program so homeowners can save a huge percentage of their electricity bills every year. The organization currently has a couple of clients lined up to receive approval for the solar technology for their homes.

The process of installation requires a construction crew, 10 job trainees or volunteers and two days worth of time.

“The installation process starts with our Outreach Coordinators assisting homeowners through the application process,” said Becca Russell, special projects intern for GRID Alternatives, in an email. “Once the homeowner is approved, our construction crew designs a system that will provide at least 75 percent of the household energy use.”

Additionally, GRID’s program offers job opportunities for interested individuals. The program allows volunteers, job trainees, student groups and corporate work teams to train, learn and work with the solar industry. Workers are prepared for jobs in the expanding solar industry while helping families afford solar energy.

Net-green impact

The larger environmental impact of using solar energy can have a larger net green in the near future, but it is sometimes hard to tell.

“Because solar energy costs are heavily influenced by the particular permitting and grid tie-in costs, it is hard to say what an economic payback time would be,” said Associate Professor of civil and environmental engineering, Alissa Kendall, in an email.

However, Professor Kendall also said that some quick calculations would tell us the expected energy and greenhouse gas payback time.

“The energy payoff is around eight years for a solar cell that is certified to last 25 to 30 years,” said Professor Adam Moule from chemical engineering and materials science department, in an email. “This means that as long as the solar cell remains in operation for longer than eight years, it is making more energy than was required to create it in the first place.”

According to Professor Moule there is no drawback for any building or facility in California to install a small solar electric or photovoltaic system, including houses.

“There is a necessity to upgrade both the distribution grid and the transmission grid to accommodate the intermittent nature of solar power collection.” Moule said. “Part of this is to connect the cities together through a network, the other part will be to install electricity storage in the form of batteries, fuel cells, and mechanical energy storage devices.”

With proper implementation and usage, solar technology saves energy and money in the long run.

Russell said GRID Alternatives hopes to install solar electric systems on 15 homes in Davis by the end of 2014.

“This will create long-term savings for families living with low incomes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide hands-on experience for volunteers, job trainees and homeowners themselves,” Russell said. “Homeowners are always very grateful for their solar electric systems.”

TAMMY LEE can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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