In June of 2020, GRID Alternatives Inland Empire (GRID IE) announced it was working on California’s first low-income community solar project. Developed with the help of the Santa Rosa Cahuilla Indians, construction on the site has been officially completed. Anza Electric Cooperative, Inc., also took part in the completion of the low-income project, which underwent a ribbon-cutting to celebrate its operations.
The low-income community solar project launched when GRID IE received a grant for $2.5 million from the California Department of Community Services and Development Low-Income Weatherization/Community Solar Pilot Program. The initial ground-breaking on the 1-megawatt array came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but national shutdowns did little to slow progress.
The Santa Rosa Solar Project was developed to generate more than $5.4 million in savings for underserved communities and customers of Anza Electrical Cooperative. That includes the 38 Santa Rosa Cahuilla tribes and up to 200 customers that meet the program’s income regulations. Benefits from the project began long before the construction was completed, too. To help the low-income community solar project become a reality, trainees from the local tribes were recruited.
To kick off operations, GRID IE and members of the Santa Rosa Indian tribal gathered for a live ribbon-cutting ceremony. The low-income community solar project was honored by Tribal Chair Lovina Redner, Vice-Chair Steven Esparza, and Administrator Vanessa Minott. GRID IE staff was also in attendance, including Executive Director Jaime Alonso, and the event was held in honor of several tribal members, including Santa Rosa tribal trainee Garret Marcus, who passed away before the ceremony.
During operations, the low-income community solar project will generate electricity that will allow underserved communities to partake in solar energy. In exchange, these homeowners will be eligible for a credit toward their utility bill each month. The typical return for partaking in community service is 10%, though it is usually based on the amount the individual is subscribed to.