New York coalition brings solar power to the poor

Affordable Solar New York’s inaugural project is with Nazareth Housing, a supportive housing organization that serves vulnerable New Yorkers on the Lower East Side and promotes housing stability and economic independence among low-income families and individuals in New York. Volunteers renovate a recent Nazareth project.

Solar power has always held the promise of democratizing electricity production and transmission.

But financial barriers, including up-front costs, credit scores and challenging financing have often kept poor families locked out of the solar revolution. A newly launched coalition in New York, however, seeks to change that.

Solar One, GRID Alternatives Tri-State and Co-op Power have launched Affordable Solar New York (ASNY), a nonprofit initiative that they believe will bring low-cost solar power to affordable housing providers in New York.

The coalition wants to deal with the traditional anti-poor barriers by providing no-cost technical assistance, reduced-cost installation and zero-down financing options to Housing Development Fund Corporation cooperatives and other affordable housing providers in the city.

The first program project will be the Nazareth Lower East Side Shelter, a housing organization that serves vulnerable New Yorkers on the Lower East Side and promotes housing stability and economic independence among low-income families and individuals in New York. GRID Alternatives will install the project in early 2017.

Solar One and GRID Alternatives provided technical assistance for the project, and it will be financed through Co-op Power’s innovative financing. The solar electric system will provide more than 80 percent of the building’s annual common area electricity and is projected to save the organization 30 percent on its overall electricity costs over the system’s 25 year life.

“I am truly pleased that our building will be the inaugural solar project of ASNY,” said Michael Callaghan, Executive Director of Nazareth Housing “Being in a flood zone that was significantly affected by superstorm Sandy, solar capacity brings environmental and fiscal benefits, while also helping us to build resiliency for the future.”

Through Affordable Solar New York, the partners plan to develop and install a number of multifamily affordable solar projects in 2017 and facilitate dozens more through technical assistance. The initiative dovetails with new state funding for low-income solar announced last week by Governor Cuomo, which could further reduce costs for housing providers.

Affordable Solar New York is made possible by The JPB Foundation through its support of GRID Alternatives’ multifamily program, and The Kresge Foundation, The 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation, Rosin Fund of The Scherman Foundation, and The Mertz Gilmore Foundation for their generous support of Solar One.