Low-income Long Beach homeowner plugs in to solar energy system to save big – Long Beach Press

June 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Sal Torres, Solar Installer Supervisor, left, looks on as Carlos Polanco, volunteer, right, puts in the final bolt on the last solar panel on a home in Long Beach, CA. Friday, June 13, 2014. (Thomas R. Cordova / Staff Photographer)

long beach Thanks to the sun, Jerry Shumate is expecting to save at least $800 a year for the next 25 years on his energy bills.

Shumate, a 57-year-old North Long Beach resident, qualified as a low-income applicant for a no-cost solar electric system for his 920-square-foot home. The system came from GRID Alternatives, a national non-profit group that supplies solar electric systems to low-income families.

Crews were at Shumate’s home on Friday installing the 2.8-kilowatt system, which is expected to produce between 75 and 90 percent of his home’s energy needs.

“I’m ecstatic. There’s no way I could have paid $18,000 for this energy system,” Shumate said. “I’m doing this to go green, lower my energy bills and add equity to my house.”

While crews were installing the system on Shumate’s roof, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stopped by to show support for GRID’s solar affordable housing program. McCarthy was in Los Angeles to appear on an episode of the HBO program “Real Time with Bill Maher,” where she will promote the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

It advocates cutting carbon pollution from existing power plants — the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States — and moving the country toward a policy of cleaner, renewable energy, such as solar.

“Jerry sees the benefits of solar,” McCarthy said. “He’s struggling financially but wants to be a part of the energy future. This is the type of action we are looking for.”

Shumate’s house is the 104th system GRID has installed since 2009 in Long Beach.

Overall, GRID has installed 716 systems in the greater Los Angeles region and about 4,300 systems statewide.

Apart from providing low-income families the opportunity to use solar power, GRID’s program provides hands-on job training. About 12 students from Los Angeles Trade Technical College’s solar PV technician certificate program, led by a GRID supervisor who graduated from the program, assisted in the installation.

GRID has about 60 partnerships with various job-training programs throughout California, said Stan Greschner, GRID’s vice president for governmental relations.

William J. Draper, 62, is a student in the solar certificate program.

“We can learn the technical stuff in the classroom, but you learn more out here doing the installation,” said Draper, who is pursuing skills to be a solar contractor.

Another student, Karen Celestine, 45, has been interested in solar energy for more than a decade. Shumate’s home is her fifth installation.

“I love working with my hands. I don’t like staying in an office,” said Celestine, who is pursuing her education as a general contractor.

Back in Shumate’s backyard, McCarthy was admiring the 10 solar panels on the roof glistening in the sun.

“We want low-income residents to have equal access to solar power,” McCarthy said.

For more information on GRID Alternatives Solar Affordable Housing Program, visit www.gridLA.org.

Contact Phillip Zonkel at 562-714-2098.

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