WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama announced plans to bring more solar energy to American homes, with a focus on a 10-times increase on the alternative energy for low- and moderate-income households.
The Clean Energy Savings For All initiative will expand the use of solar power with new programs to help reduce solar energy costs for consumers.
"Solar panels are no longer for wealthy folks who live where the sun shines every day," Obama said in a video with the announcement. "Today we're offering even more families and communities the chance to choose cleaner sources of energy that save you money and protect the planet for all of us."
Obama noted that solar usage has increased 30 fold since he took office and the number of jobs in the solar industry is increasing 12 times faster than in the rest of the economy.
But the 1 million U.S. homes with solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, is about one-quarter of the 1-gigawatt goal than Obama wants installed by 2020 in low-income homes alone. That would amount to a 10-fold increase in the low- and moderate-income homes. Originally, Obama sought 100 megawatts of renewable energy for federally assisted families by 2020.
Housing authorities in 36 states have agreed to invest $287 million to help finance 280 megawatts of solar energy projects in low and moderate-income communities, Obama said. Including past commitments, this amounts to a total investment of $800 million.
The Clean Energy Savings For All initiative will expand the use of solar energy with new programs to help reduce solar energy costs for consumers.
Six federal agencies will participate in the initiative. They include the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand financing for rooftop systems and energy efficiency upgrades through lower property tax bills. The Energy Department will award $100,000 in cash prizes to communities developing solar farms for people who don't own their homes and to train solar workers in low-income neighborhoods. The Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, DOE and HUD will help households and businesses that don't have adequate roof space to install solar systems -- especially in low- and moderate-income communities. Health and Human Services and DOE will provide technical assistance to low-income households for low-cost energy efficiency improvements, including renewable energy.
The government is also partnering with Google in expanding its solar mapping technology, Project Sunroof. "It leverages the 3D rooftop geometry data behind Google Earth to calculate the solar potential and financial benefits of solar power for 43 million American buildings across 42 states," the government release said.