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Solar Panels Add Energy Savings to Affordable Housing

It is often stated that great minds think along the same lines. That certainly appears to be the case in Oakland, California where two great ideas have combined to not only create affordable housing for low-income residents but also save them money on energy costs.

Habitat for Humanity recently joined forces with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), and the City of Oakland to include solar power in low-income housing. The result is a new program called Solar Habitat. By including solar panels in habitat-built homes, home owners are able to save money on utility bills.

Habitat for Humanity provides affordable home ownership to low-income families whose income is between 30% - 80% of the area median incomes, according to the U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines. Homeowners contribute to the affordability by actually sharing in the building process, along with other volunteers. This, combined with donated materials and funds enables Habitat for Humanity to sell homes to low-income families at very affordable prices.

As a result of the new Solar Habitat program, a new twelve unit low-income housing project in Oakland has used the solar panels to provide reduced energy costs for low-income people. PG&E has donated $1.7 million in solar panels in 2012, which has enabled 64 Habitat homes to be built with energy-saving choices for eligible low-income homeowners.

Since 2007, 416 solar-powered homes have been built in Central and Northern California through the project. It is estimated that homeowners can save about $500 per year by using solar energy. The solar energy also eliminates 132,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere over a period of 30 years.

The idea seems to be catching on. Similar solar energy projects are being included in low-income housing projects by both the St. Louis and Denver housing authorities.

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