City Partnership to Bring Free Solar to Low-Income Residents

The City of Phoenix and nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors (SUN) announced the launch of the Phoenix Metro Solar Co-op to help residents in the valley go solar. Several successful rounds have helped more than 127 homeowners install rooftop solar. With new federal tax incentives and a financial assistance program for low- to-moderate income homeowners, the program expects to attract even more members this year.

“Phoenix has more solar per capita than any other big city, and we’re proud to connect even more residents to this cost-saving, sustainable resource through this program,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “The co-op helps residents navigate the installation process using an independent, verified non-profit, and this year, we’re thrilled to support ten homeowners in low-income neighborhoods to install solar at no cost.”

Together, co-op members will learn about solar energy and leverage their numbers to purchase individual solar systems at a competitive price and top quality. The co-op is free to join and open to homeowners and small businesses throughout Maricopa County.

Doug and Robbie Peterson live in Scottsdale and joined last year’s Phoenix-area solar co-op after looking for an easier and more affordable way to install solar on their home. They had already decided that with continued rate hikes from their utility, solar power was the way to go. And, Peterson said, he felt like it was the right thing to do for the environment.

When he came across the co-op online, Peterson said he thought it might be too good to be true. But after some research, he realized it was a great option.

“Finding the right solar installer was overwhelming, even after getting several bids. The solar industry is still new and growing, so it feels a bit like the wild west out there,” said Peterson. “Joining SUN’s Maricopa County Solar Co-op helped demystify the confusing process of installing solar on our home and made us feel confident with our decision.”

A few months after their panels were installed in the fall of 2022, they noticed that one of them was underperforming. After getting in contact with a team member at SUN, SUN worked with the installer to resolve the issue. The Petersons are enjoying a home powered by free energy from the sun.

“Distributed energy resources like rooftop solar reduce our reliance on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuel generated electricity and provide relief for families facing high energy bills,” said Anthony Floyd, City of Scottsdale Green Building Program Manager. “The Scottsdale Green Building Program is supportive of the Phoenix Metro Solar Co-op as an affordable path towards increasing on-site renewable energy generation in our community.”

Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), participants in this year’s co-op may be able to use the solar tax credit for residential solar and save 30% on their total system cost. A similar tax credit is also available to small businesses, who are invited to take part in the co-op.

“Raza Development Fund is proud to support SUN and the City of Phoenix for the 2023 Phoenix Metro Solar Co-op,” said Sima Thakkar Sr., Director of Health & Climate Equity at Raza Development Fund. “We believe increasing access to information and improving our understanding of the economic, health and environmental benefits of solar energy are key steps toward building climate equity.”

The solar co-op will also help participants consider battery storage, which, paired with solar, helps bolster the grid during extreme weather events. Thanks to the IRA, homeowners can take a 30% tax credit for battery storage for the next 10 years. The new legislation also makes it possible to get the tax credit for stand-alone storage, no solar needed.

Thanks to this year’s partnership with the City of Phoenix, the co-op will be able to support low- to-moderate income households who do not have the financial resources to go solar on their own.

The funding available will help 10 families install a 6 kW rooftop solar system (a standard household system size) at no cost.

“Historically underserved communities have been locked out of clean, affordable, reliable energy for decades due to environmental injustices,” said Yara Marin, Regional Director (Interior West) at Vote Solar. “Solar United Neighbors provides financial and educational resources that Arizonans need to help overcome some of the many barriers to solar. Vote Solar is proud of this work and our partnership with Solar United Neighbors.”

“Solar co-ops simplify the process of going solar, making the shift to clean energy accessible to even more families,” said Masavi Perea, Deputy Director of Chispa Arizona. “Expanding access to rooftop solar is a crucial step in our state’s path towards a just and equitable transition, and we are excited to support the Phoenix Metro Solar Co-op and the collective power it will bring to our communities.”

After a competitive bidding process facilitated by SUN, which remains vendor neutral, co-op members will select a single solar company to complete the installations. Joining the co-op does not obligate members to purchase solar. Instead, members will have the option to individually purchase panels and electric vehicle chargers based on the installer’s group rate.

Also partnering on the co-op are Vote Solar, Raza Development Fund, Chispa AZ, and the City of Scottsdale Green Building Program.

“I’m so excited to launch this year’s solar co-op in Phoenix, as I hear from more and more people looking for help navigating the process of going solar,” said Adrian Keller, Arizona Program Director for Solar United Neighbors. “I’m particularly looking forward to helping folks access our Solar Energy Assistance Program, so that families for whom the financial burden is just too high can also share in the benefits of power from the sun.”

SUN has hosted 14 solar co-ops in Arizona since 2019. According to the group’s estimates, the 386 homes and businesses that now have solar panels because of co-ops represent: more than three thousand kW of solar power, $9.1 million in local solar spending, and more than 92.7 million lbs. of lifetime carbon offsets.

SUN will host two free information sessions to educate community members about solar energy and the co-op. Individuals interested in going solar can sign up for the co-op or one of the upcoming information sessions at the co-op web page here.

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