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Michigan Teams Compete to Bring Solar Power to Low-Income Communities

Making solar power accessible to low-income communities is the goal of national competition. (charlesa46741/morguefile)
Making solar power accessible to low-income communities is the goal of national competition. (charlesa46741/morguefile)
May 4, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – Low and moderate-income households represent 40 percent of America's population, but less than 5 percent of all solar customers.

A national competition is under way to expand solar electricity access.

Forty-eight teams from across the country have been selected to compete for $1 million in prize money.

It's sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative, and run by SUNY Polytechnic University, where Michael Fancher says to win, teams must develop a business plan that will work in under-served communities.

"So that long after the program, you have a vibrant community of these professionals able to continue and incorporate what they've learned from each other and replicating that in other low and moderate-income communities," says Fancher, executive director of the Center for Advanced Technology in Nano Materials and Nano Electronics at SUNY Polytechnic University

Teams from Detroit, Ann Arbor, Traverse City and Houghton are participating in the contest and will now put their project together over the next 18 months.

The winning entry must directly benefit low and moderate-income households, local governments or nonprofit organizations.

Fancher says the idea is to match solar installers with agencies that want to make the move to renewable energy.

"Getting the network activated and then working with the not-for-profit community and the other participants in the low and moderate-income communities is really kind of the focus of this program, and you can see that in the allocation of its funding," he states.

There's a grand prize of $500,000, with other awards of $100,000 and $200,000.



Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI