Joseph Wang and his wife, Meng Rou Lan, have found a unique way to combat the cold winter nights in Northern California. By bundling extra blankets during the day and night, they were able to stay warm while trying to save on their electricity bills. However, thanks to a California state solar energy program, your electricity costs could be significantly reduced.
St Mary’s Gardens, an affordable housing complex for low-income seniors in Oakland, is one of more than 100 projects in California deploying solar panels as part of the Affordable Multifamily Solar program Housing (Somah). The program, which receives $100 million in public funding annually, aims to generate 300 megawatts of energy through solar projects in low-income rental buildings by 2030.
Through financial assistance to building owners and education to tenants, the program not only reduces electricity bills, but also benefits low-income residents in California’s poorest communities. These communities, disproportionately affected by air pollution and climate change, can now enjoy the benefits of clean energy thanks to multi-billion dollar investments from the government.
The promotion of solar energy in California is part of a broader effort to make clean energy more equitable among different income groups and neighborhoods. According to a study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, rooftop solar installations are now more common among wealthy people. To address this imbalance, the Biden-Harris administration approved the Solar for All program, which allocates $7 billion to bring solar energy to various states across the country.
For buildings like St Mary’s Gardens, installing solar panels has its challenges, such as managing a construction project and covering upfront costs. However, the long-term benefits are worth it. By using solar energy and adopting other clean energy initiatives, such as upgrading heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and replacing gas boilers with electric ones, the building not only saves money, but also contributes to the fight against climate change.
With the success of programs like Somah, it is expected that solar energy will continue to expand, ultimately leading to the closure of coal-fired power plants and a cleaner environment for all. By providing affordable energy solutions for low-income seniors and underserved communities, California is setting an example for the rest of the country.