The Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) recently launched a new residential solar power program for qualifying low-income households in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The SWP Energy Conservation Corps (ECC) is now installing a limited number of free household solar units through this clean energy pilot program. Selected homeowners will receive solar panels and the mounting framework for rooftop or ground installation. The program provides incentives for recipients to use the energy savings realized to purchase additional solar panels in the future.
The ECC and local electrical contractors provide free installation.
The SWP coordinates the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) serving over 2,500 households in all 15 counties of the Upper Peninsula. Through this program, the SWP is able to provide heating assistance, budgeting workshops and the Energy Conservation Corps to install free household energy conservation measures. The new solar pilot program complements the long term regional energy conservation goals of the MEAP program and SWP.
The new solar project is an innovative approach to encourage energy self-sufficiency. “The Upper Peninsula has some of the highest energy costs in the country and those costs impact low income families especially hard. This new solar program demonstrates the possibility of a sustainable energy future regardless of demographics,” according to Carl Lindquist, SWP Executive Director.
Gail Anthony, CEO of the Community Foundation, is a project partner that appreciates the community benefits of the solar program. “This is a wonderful program that illustrates the benefits of clean energy and energy conservation and helps families financially as well.” Anthony appreciates the many direct and indirect community benefits of the solar program; “By funding weatherization and solar upgrades this program provides long term energy savings for financially strapped families who will use these savings for other much needed necessities.”
Caleb Myers is the ECC Crew Leader in charge of installing the solar units and providing home energy assessments, weatherization services and energy conservation measures. “The ECC helps to empower low income residents with energy-saving incentives by improving home efficiency and demonstrating the power of solar” said Myers. According to Myers, long-term thinking and empowerment is what makes the solar projects so meaningful, especially in a region that struggles with high energy costs. “The solar panel arrays help offset the high year-round electrical costs in the U.P.,” he says. “It’s important to look to localized, alternative energy and energy waste reduction solutions.”
Emily Leach is the ECC Program Coordinator for the Superior Watershed Partnership and says the program draws on several funding sources. The SWP proposed the original concept to the Michigan Energy Assistance Program and received the initial funding for the solar program. Since then additional funders have supported the low-income solar program including the Mott Foundation, the Community Foundation of Marquette County, United Way and the Upper Peninsula Power Company. “The solar units not only offset some electric costs, they also increase energy awareness and provide a cost saving incentive. Ideally, residents will re-invest their energy savings and add another solar panel or two in the future” according to Leach.
It is anticipated that the ECC will install up to a dozen low income solar units for qualifying families during this limited pilot project. For more information please contact the Superior Watershed Partnership Energy Office at (906)-273-2742.