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Rooftop Solar For The Rest Of Us: Programs For Low-Income And Apartment Residents

In this July 28, 2015, photo, electricians Adam Hall, right, and Steven Gabert, install solar panels on a roof for Arizona Public Service company in Goodyear, Ariz.
(AP Photo/Matt York)

In this July 28, 2015, photo, electricians Adam Hall, right, and Steven Gabert, install solar panels on a roof for Arizona Public Service company in Goodyear, Ariz.

Rooftop solar is great for people who can afford it, but what about those who can't? Or those who live in HOAs where rooftop arrays aren't allowed? Or small business owners in strip malls? How can they access the benefits of rooftop solar?

"The sun shines on everyone in Nevada, and everyone should be able to benefit from it," Elspeth Cordua, Nevada representative of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal initiative, told KNPR's State of Nevada.

A bill passed during the 2019 legislative session helps expand solar access to low-income individuals, disadvantage businesses, and nonprofits and residents who can't install solar for certain reasons. Essentially, the law would allow those groups to access a solar energy source remotely.

The Sierra Club and other community partners are currently working to create regulations to implement the new law. 

One of the partners is Bombard Renewable Electric. Justin Whitesides is the manager of the company's solar and energy storage division.

“The bill is intended to focus on creating good-paying jobs in Nevada for individuals that may not have access to these well-paying jobs, as well as provide solar accessibility to individuals and entities that couldn’t otherwise traditionally gain access renewables,” he said.

Cordua said the workforce and job training portion of the new law is one of the most important parts of it.

“I think that this expanded solar access is a real unique opportunity to pair solar access with also the job training and development piece of the solar industry,” she said.

The expanded solar access bill will work alongside a program that already gives tax credits for solar projects that benefit low-income communities.

LISEP or Low-Income Solar Energy Program is used by non-profits that serve people in need around Nevada.

One of those groups is Nevada HAND. Bob Feibleman is the executive vice president of construction for the group, which builds affordable housing. The group uses the tax credit to pay for solar arrays on its buildings.

“What’s great about the LISEP program is, it gets the solar system installed on a building, an apartment building in our case, that’s solely for low-income residents,” Feibleman said.

He said his group has spent $2 million installing solar arrays. The solar power helps offset operational costs and ultimately saves residents money on utility bills.

 

​Elspeth DiMarzio, Beyond Coal, Nevada Representative, Sierra Club; Bob Feibleman, Executive Vice President of Construction, Nevada HAND; Justin Whitesides, Division Manager of Solar and Energy Storage, Bombard Renewable Electric

 

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Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and KNPR's State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022. In 2024, CEO Favian Perez promoted Heidi to managing editor, charged with integrating the Desert Companion and State of Nevada newsroom operations.