Public support for solar power is strong and growing, but it’s not always strong enough to overcome the high upfront costs of installation. To help home and business owners make that initial investment towards utilizing solar power, Philadelphia re-opened its popular Solarize Philly program.
In April, Solarize Philly began accepting to new applications. The last phase closed in November 2019 after 2,068 signups. The program has helped 6,200 customers since its launch in 2017.
Program participants benefit from group-buying discounts and consumer protections. Installers are kicking off the new phase by providing free remote solar assessments.
The program is run by the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), an independent municipal authority chartered by the city in 2010 to provide targeted expertise and focus to city efforts to reduce energy consumption and expense.
The authority offers other financial incentives that are available to Solarize Philly participants. The Philadelphia Solar Rebate offers a one-time rebate incentive of 10 cents/watt to commercial and 20 cents/watt to residential projects. The rebate comes to about $1,000 for homeowners.
Fees generated by Solarize Philly also support the PEA's Solar Savings Grant Program, which provides grants plus financing to low- and moderate-income households to go solar at no upfront cost. Grants cover up to half the cost of the project, and utility bill savings start in the first year.
To participate in Solarize Philly, homeowners complete a sign-up form and are then connected to one of the city's approved installers. An installer will provide a free project proposal tailored to the home’s specific needs, based on roof space, electricity usage and other factors.
After the owner approves and signs a contract, the installer handles all permitting and engineering requirements and works with the local utility, PECO, to manage the interconnection process before the installation.
The city says Solarize Philly is also helping create jobs. Darell Clarke, city council president, said “of all energy projects, rooftop solar creates the most jobs per dollar invested.”
The PEA references a study conducted for the authority by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, which found that 15 living wage jobs are created for every 100 solar installations. PEA also leads Bright Solar Futures, a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to establish Pennsylvania’s first vocational solar program for high school students.