Low- and moderate-income Georgia homeowners have a new opportunity to benefit from solar panels on their roof without spending tens of thousands of dollars upfront.
Called Georgia BRIGHT, a new program offers solar panels leases through the Capital Good Fund, a certified nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution. Capital Good Fund uses federal funding, grants, and bulk purchase discounts to reduce the cost of installing solar on homeowners’ roofs.
Homeowners pay nothing upfront. Once the solar is up and running, participants pay a monthly lease fee that’s based on the size of the home, the current electric bill and other factors. Program organizers expect the average lease to cost $47 a month but to save about $67 a month on the electric bill, netting the homeowner $20 a month.
Savings and lease costs will vary based on how much sunlight the home receives, how much energy a household uses, and when that energy is used. Local solar installers will help residents understand whether solar is right for them and whether their home is solar-ready.
To qualify, Georgia residents must own their home, have a roof in good condition, and have a gross annual household income of $100,000 or less. No minimum credit score is required.
Kicked off last week, Georgia BRIGHT has already received 65 inquiries, mostly from the greater Savannah area, said Andy Posner, CEO of Capital Good Fund. Open to residents across Georgia, the program aims to install solar on 200 homes.
Alicia Brown, acting director of the City of Savannah’s Sustainability Office, helped create the program as part of the “100% Savannah Plan” — which aims to have the city operate on clean, renewable energy — after previous attempts to encourage more household rooftop solar in Savannah fizzled.
“Most households don’t have the money to do it,” she said. Low-income residents are among those who could benefit the most from solar.
“The Office of Sustainability has heard from so many residents that struggle with high energy bills, particularly in the summer,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “With Georgia BRIGHT, residents will benefit from lower energy bills in their first month and more stable energy bills in the future. As we’ve seen over this past year, utility rates can increase significantly and unexpectedly. With a Georgia BRIGHT lease residents can protect themselves against rising energy prices and enjoy predictable savings with solar energy.”
Brown recruited and vetted the nonprofit that’s financing the program.
“We did due diligence on Capital Good Fund,” she said. “They’re not going to be predatory on people.”
As a nonprofit and not a government agency, Capital Good Fund can be flexible in determining eligibility, Posner said.
“Let’s say they made $105,000 last year, but then one of them went down from 40 hours to 30 hours a week, and they think it’s going to be $90,000 this year, we can go off the $90,000,” he said.
Those who earn more can’t lease but they can still work with the program to install rooftop solar at the bulk buy rate of $2.60 a watt, putting the cost of a 6 kW system at $15,600 before the federal tax credit.
“Just know that (if you don’t meet the lease requirements) you’ll need to come up with a capital yourself, you know, whether it’s a loan or cash,” Posner said.
The program also offers battery systems. Monthly savings will be smaller, Posner said, but the battery can improve a home’s resiliency by providing power during an outage.
A consortium of three companies are working with Georgia BRIGHT. In the Savannah area and likely down the coast, Be Smart Home Solutions will be installing the panels . In Atlanta and Athens it will be Better Tomorrow Solar. Statewide, Sunpath Solar will provide engineering and procurement services.
Posner expects to close on the first leases by the end of October and to have a few installations complete by the end of the year.
To learn more about how to become a Georgia BRIGHT home, visit bit.ly/GABRIGHT or call (866) 584-3651.