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GW summit highlights solar power’s affordability

From left to right: Scott Sklar, Carol Werner, Todd Foley and Jerry Bloom, leaders from government, financing, solar, and low-income housing organizations, discuss how to use solar energy to generate wealth in lower income communities. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer
From left to right: Scott Sklar, Carol Werner, Todd Foley and Jerry Bloom. Leaders from government, finance, solar and low-income housing organizations discussed how to use solar energy to generate wealth in lower-income communities. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer
This post was written by Hatchet reporters Julia Arciga and Genevieve Tarino

The GW Solar Institute held the nation’s first conference on solar power for low-income communities Tuesday.

Presentations and panels in the Jack Morton Auditorium were part of the sixth annual Solar Symposium and featured solar energy experts from across the country.

Here are the top takeaways from the day of events.

1. Solar job growth

Rhone Resch, president and chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the solar industry is the fastest growing industry in the nation.

There are more than 143,000 Americans working in the solar industry in over 6,000 companies, with a new solar installation occurring every two and a half minutes, according to the National Solar Job Census, a study conducted by the Solar Foundation.

2. Low-cost energy

Resch said the best way for low-income families and communities to start using solar energy is to spread information about the alternative energy source.

“What I found with anybody who installs solar on their roof is they’re very proud of having solar,” Resch said. “It’s a sign of patriotism, its a sign of independence, it’s a sign of lowering your carbon footprint. And they talk about it. And so it ends up being a very grassroots type of communication and feel.”

Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, presented a video that detailed the economic benefits of solar energy for low-income families.

The short film explained how low-income families spend a larger percentage of their income on electricity than the average household, but they could install solar panels and supply their own power instead of paying for electricity. Any leftover solar power could be sold back to power companies.

Over half a million homes and businesses now have solar power installations, and enough solar power is expected to be generated during 2014 to power 1.5 million homes, according to the most recent data from the Solar Energy Industries Association

3. New proposals

Hannah Masterjohn from Vote Solar, a grassroots organization that works on climate change policy, proposed that average citizens partner with electric utility companies in a program called “Shared Solar.” Participants could receive discounts on their electricity bills for their involvement.

Beth Galante, a chief efficiency officer at PosiGen, proposed a standard solar system for use in homes, primarily those in poverty. Galante said PoliGen could guarantee to provide those who have the system with a profit in the first year. She said she hopes to increase demand within the solar industry as a whole.

“Solar is sexy,” Galante said.

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