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- Sarah Conley-Ballew
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Solar ACCESS Project
Solar ACCESS: Appalachian Citizens’ Community Economy Solar Shares
Athens County has the highest rate of poverty and yet has more residential solar per capita than any other county in Ohio. The opportunity to extend solar development to an underserved population can only come with the strategic development of a community investment model that allows everyday people to participate in the solar economy.
Our goal is to establish a community solar subscription platform that allows local people to offset their energy bills by supporting solar development projects located on schools, government agencies and public housing, providing a direct benefit to Appalachian families in Southeast Ohio.
Solar ACCESS Project aggregates local dollars to install solar on community assets serving low-to-moderate income (LMI) families in Appalachian Ohio. Initial projects include a school district, housing authority, and nonprofit resource center bundled to generate over 1 MW in 18 months. Barriers to community solar are the lack of enabling state polices and financing strategies for small scale projects benefiting LMI households. Our innovation expands PPA opportunities beyond traditional investment model to include diverse community capital sources and participation by LMI families. Social benefits include energy cost savings, rural wealth creation, solar jobs, and LMI access to the solar economy.