Program to make solar energy available, affordable launches in DeKalb

Although many experts have for decades seen in solar technology the potential for a sustainable and cost-effective energy source, such obstacles as cost and reliability of companies selling the systems have slowed the acceptance of solar energy. That may change in the wake of a recently announced program that uses federal funds to make solar energy available to Georgia homeowners.

In what it described as a “groundbreaking partnership” with Capital Good Fund’s Georgia BRIGHT program, Georgia Conservation Voters is enhancing solar accessibility for Georgia low- to middle-income households. Georgia Conservation Voters is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Georgia’s environment by electing pro-environment candidates, advocating for strong environmental policies, and holding elected officials accountable,” according to its website.

The initiative, which aligns with President Joe Biden’s Affordable Clean Energy Plan, launched earlier this year in DeKalb County. “We chose DeKalb, starting in Lithonia, because it has large numbers of residents who match our program target. The program is for Georgia residents with household incomes of up to $100,000 who own their homes and have roofs suitable for solar panels. There are a lot of those in DeKalb,” explained Capital Good Fund Chief Business Officer Aisha Bussey, who added that the program has spread to the Redan area of Stone Mountain and parts of the Decatur area and ultimately will be available throughout the state.

Calling the program, “a shared commitment to environmental sustainability and equitable energy solutions,” Bussey said that on April 22, Earth Day, the Georgia BRIGHT coalition received $156 million from the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar For All grant, which she predicted “will dramatically scale the program and bring the benefits of solar to approximately 20,000 households over five years while creating good-paying jobs.”

Representatives of Georgia Conservation Voters began in April knocking on doors in Lithonia, educating the community about the availability of Georgia BRIGHT as well as the importance of renewable energy, according to Allie Brown, the organization’s deputy director.

“Right now, in Georgia only about 9 percent of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources and only about one half of 1 percent comes from rooftop solar,” Brown said. “The potential here in Georgia—where there is abundant sunshine—is great, and with undeniable evidence of a climate crisis, we need to act quickly.”

Brown said that over the course of her career she has seen great improvement in solar technology with lighter, more efficient panels than were initially available.

“The partnership between Georgia Conservation Voters and Georgia BRIGHT program marks a pivotal step toward a cleaner, more environmentally just future for DeKalb,” said DeKalb County District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry. “By making solar energy attainable for homeowners with incomes under $100,000, we are creating inclusive paths to a clean energy future for all Georgians.”

Eligible homeowners can lease solar panels and/or battery storage with no upfront costs, thanks to financing options provided by Georgia BRIGHT, Bussey explained, adding, “This innovative program saves homeowners money and empowers them to reduce their carbon footprint.” She estimates that participants will save up to $262 on their first year’s power bill, and “savings may go up afterward, making clean energy more affordable and accessible than ever before.”

Bussey acknowledged that some homeowners are skeptical about installing solar panels on their homes because of past experiences. “There have been cases of unscrupulous companies that installed solar panels but never set up the system properly so that it worked. When the homeowners tried to contact them, they were nowhere to be found; they had gone out of business. Of course, that won’t happen with us. We’re a nonprofit organization; we’re not trying to get rich off solar. We’re interested in creating a cleaner, more sustainable energy landscape for all Georgians.”

Capital Good Fund, creator of Georgia BRIGHT, is a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution that “uses financial services to tackle poverty and environmental injustice in America,” according to its website.

For more information about the Georgia Conservation Voters and Capital Good Fund partnership, including eligibility criteria and how to participate, visit bit.ly/BRIGHT_GCV.

“We are proud to partner with the Georgia BRIGHT program to expand solar access to communities that have historically been underserved in the renewable energy sector,” said Brionté McCorkle, executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters, said in an announcement of the program. “By democratizing access to solar power, we are not only advancing environmental sustainability but also fostering economic resilience and energy independence for Georgia residents.”

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