Colorado installs the first low-income rooftop solar system using WAP funds

Yesterday the Colorado Energy Office announced that local solar installer El Paso Green Energies has completed a 2 kW solar PV system on a home in Colorado Springs – paid for by the federal government.

The PV system was funded by the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), a program under the U.S. Department of Energy which provides weatherization and energy efficiency improvements for low-income homes. States operate their own versions of the program, and to be eligible for Colorado’s program recipients must spend 4% of their annual budget on energy costs.

This is the first such installation under a pilot program at Colorado’s Energy Resource Center, and the first announcement of a program utilizing WAP funds to install solar found by pv magazine. The home in Colorado Springs will also receive insulation, storm windows, low-flow showerheads, LED bulbs and a refrigerator, and is expected to save $600 annually in energy costs.

WAP has a budget of $215 million this fiscal year; however it is unclear how much of that could be used for low-income solar. And while solar analysts contacted by pv magazine were unable to comment on the potential market impacts of using WAP funds for low-income solar, GTM Research noted that state-level programs have been critical for this market segment.

“With minimal investment in low-income rooftop solar to date, the role that programs like this have played in other state markets have proven really important to overcome other financing hurdles, including low FICO scores that have deterred other investors from entering the space,” GTM Research U.S. Solar Associate Director Cory Honeyman told pv magazine.

Colorado clearly sees the inclusion of solar PV in WAP as useful.

“The impact of this project is threefold: it addresses energy burden by reducing both home heating and electric costs; it enhances opportunities for distributed generation; and it demonstrates the viability of rooftop solar offerings for low-income households,” said Joseph Pereira, director of Low-Income Energy Services for the Colorado Energy Office in a press statement.