The purpose of community solar is to provide consumers with a credit on their utility bills while helping preserve the environment through renewable energy. GRID Alternatives Inland Empire (GRID IE) is working hard to ensure that everyone in California can benefit from these programs and recently begun construction on the only low-income community solar project in California. After receiving a $2.05 million grant as part of the Low-Income Weatherization Program, Community Solar Pilot Program of the California Department of Community Services and Development, GRID IE used the money to break ground on a new solar project.
GRID IE chose a plot on the Cahuilla Indian reservation in Santa Rosa. Upon completion, the first low-income community solar project in California is expected to generate approximately 1 megawatt of solar energy. It’s expected to result in a savings of $5.4 million to low-income customers of Enza Electrical Cooperative (AEC). As power is generated through the Santa Rosa Band community solar installation, AEC will provide qualifying program subscribers with bill credits that will reduce their monthly energy bills. The community solar program is being offered to 38 low-income members of the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indian tribe and up to 250 low-income AEC members.
AEC will manage the site and will provide upgrades to ensure the site functions properly over its lifespan. The cooperative is already looking to upgrade transformers and power poles to guarantee the site can handle the energy influx.
According to Jaime Alonso, GRID IE’s executive director, the partnership of AEC, GRID IE, and the Cahuilla Indians will bring new jobs to the area. Alonso also confirmed that it will generate savings to low-income subscribers that may not qualify for currently existing programs.
The first phase of the project is currently underway as the site undergoes grading, surveying, erosion control, racking, pile driving, and location staking. Vanessa Lorrah, the project manager overseeing construction, California’s first low-income community solar project will be completed in Autumn of 2020.