Not everyone interested in going solar can pay for a new solar installation up-front. The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program allows local and state governments to loan money to home and business owners for energy improvements, to be paid back on top of their property taxes. Cities can also partner with local financial institutions to offer low-interest loans for solar projects. The “Milwaukee Shines” program, for example, partnered with Summit Credit Union to offer loans of up to $20,000 for certain solar installations. Partnering with local solar installers to allow customers to lease panels over time can also help reduce up-front costs.
Bulk purchasing programs allow businesses, homeowners and nonprofits to purchase solar energy collectively, lowering the cost for everyone involved. Portland, Oregon, was the first to offer a “Solarize” bulk purchasing program, and many other cities have followed suit. In less than five months, “Solarize Athens” more than tripled the residential solar energy capacity in the Athens, Georgia, metropolitan area.
Community solar programs can allow apartment occupants and others unable to install their own solar systems to access clean solar energy. Customers can rent or own a set of panels in a shared project and receive a credit on their utility bill for the power they produce. Cities can work with utilities and third-party developers to develop shared solar projects.