SunPower, a solar technology service company, says fewer than 5% of domestic homes are solar-powered today. The business lists presumed high installation costs as one of the primary deterrents in a pool of 2,005 consumers surveyed.
Even with the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, the residential solar storage marketplace and informational site, a report by EnergySage suggests that solar prices have steadily increased over the past two years. According to the online clean energy comparison marketplace, energy storage batteries cost slightly over $1,000. Moreover, interest rates for a 25-year loan covering a $30,000 residential solar system have doubled from 2.99% to 4.99% between the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, according to the report.
Community solar programs like Summit Ridge Energy’s rooftop project in Maryland, Va., are one way stakeholders try to make residential solar a realistic option for low-income consumers. In line with this effort, SunPower announced three new grant programs to fund 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations advancing domestic clean energy equity.
- A Workforce Development Grant intended to increase diversity in the solar industry. It will provide access to career opportunities STEM education and training programs to women minorities and people of color.
- Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Grant. This will incentivise industry equity coach solar entrepreneurs and provide business development opportunities.
- Solar Accessibility, Affordability and Resiliency Grant. This will help historically underserved communities or those impacted by climate disasters build resilience by adopting solar solutions.
The grants are funded by SunPower Foundation, which is the organization’s philanthropic sector.
According to the charity, Habitat for Humanity and We Share Solar are among previous recipients. SunPower Foundation donated solar panels volunteers and money to help Habitat for Humanity design permit and install 140 panels across 13 homes in Sacramento at the start of spring this year.
In 2021 and 2022, the organization partnered with We Share Solar. This Berkeley-based nonprofit provides health workers in developing countries with solar-powered lighting communication and medical devices. The tools are intended to reduce maternal mortality. SunPower Foundation’s grant went toward teaching low-income Filipino youth how to assemble and use a suitcase solar kit during a disaster. This meant kids could light up schools community centers or refugee camps. The program was called “We Share Solar Suitcases”.
The SunPower Foundation grants build on SunPower’s 25×25 commitments. The solar provider states the program was launched in 2021 to make clean energy accessible to all, “We want to ensure the benefits of home solar and battery storage serve American families job-seekers and businesses representing underserved communities.” The organization hopes to achieve this mission by meeting the following goals by Fiscal Year 2025.
- Increasing workforce diversity by 25%. This includes ensuring 25% of SunPower employees are represented by the Black and Hispanic/Latinx community while 40% constitutes women.
- Expanding access for customers by 25%. SunPower wants to ensure that 25% of its new domestic residential consumers are members of low-income neighborhoods.
- Ensure industry Equity by 25%. This means 25% of SunPower’s new dealers and subcontractors will be women or people of color-owned businesses.
SunPower has identified three projects intended to actualize these goals. They include implementing a workforce development program to support domestic residential installation teams. Moreover, the company is looking to develop alternative financing options so solar is accessible to more consumers. Lastly, SunPower will establish a dealer diversity accelerator program to leverage new partnerships with women and minority-owned businesses.
SunPower Foundation reports that it has awarded over $1 million in grants to expand domestic access to solar. Each year, qualified organizations can receive between $5000 and $100,000.
Applications for the new grants will be accepted through October 20, and awardees will be announced at the end of this year. Those applications for clean energy education and workforce training programs targeted at underrepresented groups are encouraged to petition. Visit the SunPower FoundationJerusha to learn more.
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