With a little help from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod, and her neighbors, Latoya G. from Mashpee is now the proud owner of 27 solar panels. Latoya works as the Transportation Coordinator for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and recently moved into a new Habitat for Humanity home. She now not only has a mortgage with affordable monthly payments but in addition, her utility bills are less expensive because of solar power and energy efficient systems.
“I always wanted solar panels,” Latoya said. “Efficiency has recently been a big focus on Cape Cod and in the Northeast. Up here where the bills are astronomically high and you don’t really have a say in what they charge you, it’s important to save where you can. And with the environment being tortured the way it is, it’s important to do what you can.”
Latoya’s solar project was made possible by the Low Income Challenge, a MassCEC program that funded clean energy technologies for the benefit of low-income residents. MassCEC partnered with Cape Light Compact and invested $250,000 to install 15 solar photovoltaic (PV) projects on homes owned by residents who are earning less than 60 percent of the state median income. Cape Light Compact is a customer advocacy and energy efficiency organization that serves Cape and Vineyard residents. Revenues from the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) that the projects produce will allow Cape Light Compact to invest in solar panels for additional homes.
After pairing the solar PV with air-source heat pumps (also called mini-splits), Latoya’s electric, heating and cooling bills this year have been half of what she was paying before. Her biggest bill came in December 2017, when her mini-splits had to handle the two-week cold-snap. For all of her heating and electric use, it was still only $200.
“The benefits of this system have been phenomenal,” Latoya said about her panels. “There’s great social feedback from people stopping by to see it. They’re flabbergasted by it, it helps spread the word around the community about what a benefit renewable energy can be to anybody.”
Latoya’s system is expected to produce 7,900 kilowatt hours of energy a year—the carbon equivalent of 5.9 metric tons of CO2—and save her family approximately $1,600 per year. Cape Cod-based installer SunPower by E2 Solar installed the panels, and more than 100 volunteers helped Latoya construct the house.
Other projects completed under the Low Income Challenge include replacing old electric heating systems with a total of 67 air-source heat pumps in low income homes, installing monitoring and optimization equipment on boilers in more than 100 affordable housing developments, and funding energy audits for affordable housing.