A quick life update:
Hester (the bike) is sitting at home in my basement in Eugene, getting some well-deserved rest, while I’m across the country, getting used to a new city and a new job. Three weeks ago, I started a job with Solstice, a Boston-based social enterprise that is working to expand access to solar energy.
Solar technology costs have come down dramatically in the last ten years, and installers and developers are increasingly limited by the costs of finding new customers. At the same time, as much as 80 per cent of Americans are locked out of the solar market–either because they are renters, they have insufficient credit or savings, or because their roofs are unsuitable (think condo owners and people with shady or poorly angled roofs).
Community solar–when a central solar installation that customers can tap into for renewable electricity and savings on their utility bill–can theoretically remedy these issues. A customer’s relationship with their rooftop no longer matters, and the long-term contracts (or upfront purchase cost) and high credit scores required by rooftop solar installers should be mitigated by a community solar developer’s ability to swap in new customers when others default or move away.
But we have a ways to go before that vision becomes a reality. So far, community solar developers have won over risk-conscious investors by modeling their contracts after the rooftop solar market, requiring 20-year contracts and FICO scored in the 700s. Solstice is pushing developers to change that, offering shorter-term contracts and working to develop qualifying metrics that use rent and bill payment history to include lower-income communities. By adjusting these contracts to meet the needs of communities that have so far been locked out of the solar market, we hope to bring access to renewable energy savings to the low-income communities who need it most.
Needless to say, I’m excited to be here–this is exactly the work that I want to be pushing forward. I’m working on the company’s grant writing and marketing efforts, planning and carrying out our content and education efforts. (My first post just went live here, if you want to take a look). The company blog will probably be the best place to keep up with my writing for the next months (years?)–it’s keeping me plenty busy 🙂