Partners in Affordable Housing joins Just Solar Coalition garden

housing-solutions

As Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light and the Just Solar Coalition continue to increase access to affordable, local, community-owned clean energy in southern Minnesota, we are thrilled to share about an exciting new partnership in Mankato!

17 housing units owned by Partners for Affordable Housing have joined the Just Solar Coalition community solar garden in Waseca county. Partners for Affordable Housing, or PAH, is a nonprofit organization that assists residents of Mankato and surrounding area who are experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness. PAH operates emergency shelters, transitional housing support, below market rate permanent housing units, and a “free store” to help guests obtain household items at no cost, while connecting with other resources they need.

The community solar garden is projected to save Partners for Affordable Housing about $720 on electricity during the first year and around $100,000 over 25 years. “As a non-profit who strives to provide relevant programs to help the most people, we find ourselves struggling to cover the cost of these supportive services,” says Jen Theneman, Executive Director for PAH.  “We look for opportunities to leverage what is offered in the community to save money so we can focus our investments on people, not on expenses. Such an opportunity to save money while being environmentally responsible came to us from our partners at School Sisters of Notre Dame,” shares Theneman. “With ownership of many properties, many of which are very old, the opportunity to partner with MNIPL to save our valuable resources not just in the first year, but also supporting our goal of sustainability enables us to continue to provide our important services well into the future to help people in need.”

Community solar gardens are an alternative to putting solar panels on the roof of a house or business. Electricity is produced by a large array of solar panels and each subscriber receives a credit on their electric bill for the electricity produced by the array. The Just Solar Coalition exists to ensure that equity and accessibility are prominent concepts in the emerging clean energy economy. Renewable energy saves money and creates good-paying jobs, so it is important that those benefits are available to everyone. There are no income or credit requirements to participate and the only upfront cost is $25 to join the cooperative.

One of the most important aspects of the Just Solar Coalition’s model for community solar gardens is flexible options if you need to terminate your subscription. Most community solar gardens require a 20 or 25 year contract, but very few residents can guarantee their housing arrangement for that long. We allow subscribers to take their subscription to a new house or apartment, transfer it to a friend, or cancel it with three months worth of payments. That gives subscribers some protection if something in their life changes, or if the cost of electricity changes in an unexpected way. The ability to transfer a subscription was very important to Theneman and the PAH Board as they determined if joining the community solar garden was a good decision for their organization. “Due to financing, some of our properties must remain in our ownership for the purpose of housing those experiencing homelessness – so we’ll get the benefit for many years to come.  Other properties are not restricted, so if we determined that we should sell a property, the ability to transfer the subscription to a new owner, is a positive selling point. For the same reason and obvious cost saving, my husband and I felt it also made sense to subscribe for our own home.”

There is still room for you to be part of the Just Solar Coalition garden in southern Minnesota! If you are a resident or own a small business in one of the following counties:  Blue Earth, Le Sueur, Waseca, Rice, Steele, Faribault, or Freeborn, and get your electricity from Xcel, you can join Partners for Affordable Housing in receiving reliable, cost-saving, clean energy that benefits our community. For more information, please complete this interest form or contact Briana Baker at [email protected] or 320-905-4442.

Briana Baker