Bridging the Opportunity Divide

For Those Most in Need of Low Utility Bills, There’s Free Solar Energy

September 10, 2014
For Those Most in Need of Low Utility Bills, There’s Free Solar Energy
Joe Jaszewski/Getty Images
These families in the Mile High city don't have to buy individual panels to reap the benefits of solar savings.

Normally, the families that can afford solar panels are the ones who are least in need of the energy savings that accompany the green technology. But now, a new program in Denver is giving some low-income households free access to solar energy.

The charter elementary school Academy 360 (80 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch) in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood focuses on health and wellness in its curriculum and provides wholesome breakfasts and lunches to all its students and encourages plenty of exercise.  And now, the new solar program, which was announced by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock last month, should bring more overall wellness (not to mention budget savings) to the families of each of the 125 students enrolled in the school.

Last year, Colorado became the first state to give people the option of accessing solar energy by subscribing to a solar garden connected to their houses via an energy grid, rather than purchasing and installing their own solar panels. This type of thing isn’t legal in every state, but four years ago Colorado legislators passed the Community Solar Act, allowing for partnerships between solar and electrical companies.

The first two solar gardens were located in Colorado Springs, and now a company called SunShare is bringing this option to Denver. The first subscribers will receive six-tenths of a kilowatt of solar energy and should see their home energy bills reduced by twenty percent, according to Anthony Cotton of the Denver Post.

“When I was your age, I used to see these magical solar panels on houses, and I wondered what they did,” Mayor Hancock said as he spoke to the Academy 360 community. “They were very expensive to have then, and they still are. But because of this project, we’ll all be able to share in affordable energy.”

SunShare CEO David Amster-Olszewski tells the Post that he thinks the program will bring a variety of benefits for the Academy 360 families: “It means they’ll be able to put healthier foods on the table or buy more sports equipment for their kids’ health.”

MORE: The Gridiron Goes Green