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Words by: Kyle Eustice

From The Source Magazine Issue #270 | 2016

Solar panels are on the rise in inner city communities

With the cost of living consistently escalating it’s increasingly difficult for low-income families to survive, especially in expensive metropolitan areas. Cutting corners to meet the monthly budget is second nature to many families. Fortunately, there’s an eco-friendly way to decrease the monthly electric bill that may evade most: solar panels.


Invented in 1839 by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel, solar panels are designed to absorb the sun’s rays as a source of energy for generating electricity or heating, significantly reducing energy costs.

America is in the midst of a rooftop solar boom, with installation up 139,000% in the last decade. Renewable power and energy efficiency improvements could be life altering for inner-city residents and safer for the planet, as well.

In 2015, The White House said it is taking steps to add more solar panels on rooftops in poor, inner-city neighborhoods to cut electricity bills and fight climate change. Dozens of new initiatives were rolled out by the White House since the start of the year to signal President Obama’s commitment to act on climate change, despite Republican opposition.

In an interview with Ideas For Us, Erica Mackie, CEO of Grid Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that installs rooftop solar for low-income families, says providing low-income families with renewable energy and jobs makes “simple sense.”

“The vision is that we make a transition to clean energy, and we do it in a way that includes everyone,” Mackie says. “By everyone we mean everyone, not just certain portions of our society.”

There are, however, some giant roadblocks preventing solar panels from becoming a more common way to generate electricity. According to White House officials, nearly half of all US households are shut out of solar because they are renters or their properties are too small to install panels. Consequently, only about one percent of the electricity moving along America’s grid comes from solar.

Sadly, the inclusion of low-income communities in the transformation of US energy is far from guaranteed, even in the face of powerful political motivations for clean power.

But inner-city neighborhoods could receive more benefits than just lower electric bills by going solar. It has the added benefits of providing local jobs, boosts in property values and exposure to advanced technology, especially for children—crucial in the education of future generations. Furthermore, the more the industry scales up, the cheaper it gets, proving it’s not just for suburbanites and millionaires in search of an ego boost. Making it a way of life benefits not only the planet, but also those families struggling to stay above water. – Kyle Eustice