Sunday, January 25, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Nonprofit helps low-income families connect to solar energy

solar1W

Veteran Ben Kavoussi stands in front of his house which was fitted with solar panels thanks to the nonprofit called GRID Alternatives. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo


By
From page A1 | December 11, 2013 |

Ben Kavoussi always has been energy-conscious, but at the moment, the Persian-born Davis resident cannot afford to install the solar panels that would match his house to his values.

Living off his post-Sept. 11 GI Bill and student loans, while the 17-year serviceman learns to become a physician’s assistant at UC Davis, Kavoussi doesn’t have the discretionary income needed to fund that type of work.

Lucky for him, there’s a nonprofit out there that’s willing to provide and install the solar equipment, at no cost.

“They came and knocked on my door,” Kavoussi said. They said they needed “to find out if (I was) qualified to get panels installed. … I said, ‘Why not? Let’s talk about it,’ and she looked at my income and she said it looks like I qualify.”

A few months later, Kavoussi watched workers affix nine new solar panels onto his roof, without spending a dime.

The solar upgrade, which happened last month, was the handiwork of a nonprofit called GRID Alternatives, an East Bay outfit that leverages private and corporate donations, grant funding and donated equipment to install solar systems for low-income households.

The service opens a window to solar power for those like Kavoussi, who normally would not be able to afford such technology. The program also helps out folks with their monthly bottom lines.

Total installation costs, including equipment and labor, for a solar panel installation can run anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. It’s no wonder that finding a way into solar can be difficult.

“We provide the benefits of renewable energy to low-income families and to other communities that would otherwise not have access to it on the market,” said Rebekah Casey, GRID regional development officer, adding, “The reason why we do solar for affordable housing is that, obviously it has benefits to people who are trying to make ends meet.”

GRID customizes its solar systems to qualified households based on the amount of kW the homes produce, Casey says.

The solar panels will generate between 75 and 85 percent of the home’s total energy output, and then GRID provides incentives that help families reach up to 100 percent savings through other energy-efficiency measures.

That means savings of anywhere between 75 percent and 100 percent on energy bills once GRID has stepped in.

“I was paying a couple hundred (dollars) per year,” Kavoussi said. “I don’t have the numbers; I know my bill was going to be less than $5 a month. It’s a dramatic reduction in price.”

GRID also provides instruction on how to troubleshoot the solar system should the equipment ever malfunction. The nonprofit includes a 10-year warranty on the labor and a 10- to 25-year warranty on the equipment as well.

An individual or family can qualify for GRID’s program if their home is subject to an affordable housing deed restriction. Further, the household must be considered low-income by the state. In Davis, a family of four earning less than $61,500 is eligible for the program.

Also eligible are those who have been accepted into Davis’ Home Improvement Loan program, which offers funding to homeowners such as senior citizens or the disabled who need help making their homes more accessible.

But the nonprofit’s services don’t end with pairing low-income families and households with the costly equipment it takes to knock down monthly energy bills.

GRID also provides a no-cost training service and volunteer program for people who want to get involved in the industry.

Similar to Habitat for Humanity, all installations are performed by community service volunteers or job trainees under the supervision of certified staff.

Two weeks ago, students from Woodland Community College’s Math Science and Engineering Achievement Program and members of the Green Tech Academy in Sacramento were on hand helping GRID and Kavoussi with the installation.

“While they were installing (the system, GRID staff) were explaining the process because they were training the people,” Kavoussi said. “You had a couple of kids, it was pretty smooth, they were training them and showing them; it was very instructional.”

That type of business model also helps the nonprofit, which recently expanded nationally, keep its costs under control.

The city has dedicated $70,000 to GRID’s efforts in Davis from its Community Development Block Grant/Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funding that it receives from the federal government each year. The city received about $300,000 from that program this year, according to Danielle Foster, city housing and human services superintendent.

GRID then matched that $70,000 four times over through state programs and its other donor sources, and Casey says that total will allow GRID to “solarize” 15 homes in Davis by the end of the year.

Mayor Joe Krovoza, who attended the installation at Kavoussi’s house two weeks ago, commended city staff for finding this program for the residents of Davis.

“The programs of GRID Alternatives in Davis are bringing the savings of renewable energy to our veterans, the disabled and others,” Krovoza said in a statement. “Our city staff has been fantastic in facilitating more and more programs for our residents, which also helps Davis meet our Climate Action Plan goals.

“This is yet another example of citizens capturing the benefits of low-carbon, low-cost power.”

GRID is still looking for applications for the program. To apply, contact the nonprofit at 866-921-4696 or sash@gridalternatives.org.

Since its inception in 2004, GRID has saved families $100 million on energy bills, prevented 315,000 tons of greenhouse gases from being emitted and trained 14,000 volunteers. The nonprofit has installed solar systems on 3,700 homes.

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Comments

comments

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Winter produce available at Sutter market

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Share your love (story) with us

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Speaker will share computer security tips

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Donations to be distributed during homeless count

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

     
    Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

    Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

     
    Davis, Woodland are saving water

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

    Words and Music Festival events

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    Family isn’t keen on relationship

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

     
     
    Caring for the aging mouth

    By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

    We don’t have to suffer

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    City helped immensely

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Rick McKee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

    Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

    By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

     
    We have the right to choose

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

     
    From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    .

    Sports

    Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD men take two tennis matches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

     
    Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

    By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8