Spark Northwest partners with community land trust to launch free rooftop solar program in Portland
In a new collaboration with Spark Northwest, Solar energy for everyone and All Points North Foundation, electable proud ground homeowners can install solar for free, cutting utility bills to save hundreds of dollars a year.
Over the past year, the partnership has provided more than $90,000 in funding and worked with ten families in the Portland Tripoli to install solar panels on their homes, a first step in expanding solar energy into additional affordable homes as the need for clean energy increases with the consequences of climate change.
Through Proud Ground’s community land trust model, 500 households of color and low-income families have purchased their first home, unlocking the ability to build wealth that makes homeownership possible.
By combining the dream of a first home ownership with solar installations, these homes become even more affordable. Each approximately 3.5 kW solar system saves the homeowner an average of $500 per year over the system’s 25-year life.
“Land trusts are a unique way to make solar affordable and accessible for low- to middle-income homeowners,” said Laura Staich, executive director of the All Points North Foundation. “We are proud to collaborate on this effort and see this model as one that can be replicated, extending the benefits of solar energy in rural communities.”
The benefits go beyond financial benefits and climate impacts. A southeast Portland family who entered the program has used the savings to plant a vegetable garden, an ambition unachievable when renting homes with limited yard space. The vegetable garden is more than just fresh food — it has served as a connection to new neighbors and to participate in the community by contributing produce to the Oregon Food Bank.
“Home ownership isn’t just about paying a mortgage – it creates stability and security for families to spend more time with their loved ones, to be a part of their community, and with solar panels, the cost savings help invest in their future. said Melissa Ulrich, director of development at Proud Ground.
The ability to build wealth while benefiting the environment especially affects younger generations. Proud Ground homeowner Salome Waithaka looks forward to a future where her children can benefit from the financial savings and greater independence from fossil fuels.
“The addition of solar is another step in making this an affordable home to own and operate. And there’s the added benefit of solar not only offsetting heating costs, but also providing a clean future for the next. generation,” said Waithaka.
Encouraged by the successful partnership, Proud Ground and Spark Northwest plan to bring this pilot program model to community land trusts across the country — one piece of the puzzle in ensuring a just transition to clean energy and realizing the American Dream of homeownership for more families.
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