Solar Success: How the IRA Will Help Community Solar Gardens Power Affordable Housing

Enterprise Community Blog | Vesna Jaksic Lowe

In California, solar panels have sprouted from the terracotta rooftops of senior apartments. In the District of Columbia, a reservoir-based community solar project will provide free energy to more than 500 households. And in Minnesota, a community solar garden atop a high school will supply clean power to the building and its neighbors, many of whom live in marginalized communities.

Community solar programs allow multiple customers – including individuals, businesses, and nonprofits – to access clean energy from solar panels. For low- to moderate-income residents in multifamily housing who do not have access to a roof, do not own their property, or live in shaded areas, community solar creates an opportunity to access renewable energy and lower utility costs. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) presents an extraordinary moment to invigorate this growing area of solar while prioritizing communities with the greatest need.

The IRA includes $27 billion for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, including the $7 billion Solar for All program. It provides tax credits and incentives to expand existing solar programs and build new ones for low-income and disadvantaged communities. If a project meets additional requirements – such as repurposing a brownfield site, providing prevailing wages and apprenticeship opportunities, or relying on domestic materials – the IRA could cover a major portion of the project’s costs. For the first time, nonprofits can also get direct payments for qualifying projects.

“The opportunity to decarbonize more of our energy sector is a huge societal benefit but the true reason many of our participants are signing up for community solar gardens is mostly driven by the urgent need to have more affordable energy.”

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