Bloomington Looks to Bring Solar Citywide

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In exchange for grants, homeowners provide “sweat equity” by helping with their own installation as well as others. In exchange for grants, homeowners provide “sweat equity” by helping with their own installation as well as others.
BLOOMINGTON -

A Bloomington nonprofit is looking to bring renewable energy to households normally left in the dark when it comes to solar power. Indiana Solar For All is part of a partnership looking to help low- and fixed-income Hoosiers tap into the power of the sun.

Solar For All's objectives are simple: increase and accelerate the adoption of solar energy in Indiana and expand access to it, especially to lower-income Hoosiers. The organization partnered with the city of Bloomington and its Solarize Bloomington campaign to provide grants to eight area homeowners to install rooftop solar systems last year. This year, they’re looking to fund 12 installations.

In exchange, homeowners provide “sweat equity” by helping with their own installation as well as others.

"By our providing them with donated materials and their providing us with the labor to get them up," says Indiana Solar For All Treasurer Anne Hedin, "they benefit and also the community benefits from that."

To make the partnership work, Solar For All looks beyond income qualifications when it comes to selecting participants. The criteria also include construction, project management, fundraising and communications skills. Those who meet the work requirements but not the income criteria can still participate by purchasing equipment from the organization’s partner supplier.

The program builds on the city’s Solarize Bloomington campaign, which has helped more than 100 households purchase solar systems over the last two years. Hedin believes, by partnering with a nonprofit organization, the model and its benefits can be replicated.

"Mainly, spreading the benefits of solar beyond the middle-class people to people who can otherwise not afford it, but who really need it," says Hedin. "So, what we’re trying to work out is an organization that is self-fulfilling in a way, and a partnership that works with Solarize campaigns, and other states and communities could adopt the same practice."

Overall, the Solarize program says it is seeing success in Bloomington. It says more than 180 homeowners have installed over 1.2 megawatts of solar capacity through the program – the equivalent of the energy used by 120 average homes.

ISFA Director Stephanie Kimball says programs like this are crucial for Hoosiers with low or fixed incomes who do not afford to buy solar installations and do not qualify for the federal renewable energy tax credit.

"These people are the most vulnerable to electric rate increases because utility bills are a significant part of their expenses," said Kimball in a release. "Yet with assistance from Indiana Solar For All, they are enabled to contribute to the community by installing their own systems."

Hedin believes Indiana is a state that is “beginning to move toward renewable energy, though not very quickly.” She says renewable energy jobs vastly outnumber Indiana’s mining-related jobs, which she adds will reduce by natural attrition. She hopes organizations like Solar For All and ongoing efforts like Solarize Bloomington can be part of pushing the Hoosier state toward a more solar-powered future.

Hedin believes Indiana is slowly but surely embracing renewable energy.
Hedin explains how the relationship with partner installers and suppliers works.
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