More Solar Habitats Rising In California

Pacific Gas & Electric, the giant California power utility, pissed off a lot of solar advocates in August when it helped kill a community solar bill in the state legislature, but there is a flip side to the company: It backs Habitat for Humanity in a big way, supplying solar panels for every home the organization has built in Northern and Central California since 2007.

As a dozen new homes were going up in Oakland last week, the company said it would continue the program – which has resulted in 416 solar-powered Habitat homes – for a sixth year.

solar habitat pg&e

Solar Habitat homes in Bay Point (image via Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley)

PG&E said it would spend $1.27 million to provide solar panels for 64 more homes.

If you think about it, the benefits of such a program are pretty powerful. First you’ve got the fact that, according to PG&E, each rooftop system provides on average 300 kilowatt-hours clean power a month, “avoiding the release of more than 132,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the 30-year life of the system.” Then for the resident, you’ve got a power bill that’s $500 a year smaller than it would otherwise be.

And just the other day we reported on a new study that showed that the visibility of solar panels in an area can spur neighbors to install solar on their own homes. So these Solar Habitat homes could be boosting solar adoption in places that might not otherwise be focused on the technology.

“Today, the city of Oakland celebrates yet another partnership with Habitat for Humanity and PG&E. Together, we are transforming a site that has long been vacant in this community,” OaklandCity Council President Larry Reid said in a statement. “We look forward to how the development of these 12 new Solar Habitat homes on Edes Avenue can change an entire neighborhood and are excited about several additional Habitat for Humanity developments in the area.”

PG&E said that to date it has “donated more than $6.4 million to help reach and respond to the housing needs of California families” and said the effort is “further supported by the thousands of PG&E volunteers that have come together at Habitat build sites across the state.”

Habitat for Humanity, meanwhile, has been doing more and more to make sure the homes built through its program are sustainable and efficient. Midwest Energy News reported this year on an efficiency-focused project in Minnesota, and noted that similar projects in St. Louis; Lansing, Mich.; and Iowa City, where a chapter was building a net-zero home.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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