The Cincinnati Office of Environment and Sustainability (OES), with the aid of an equity map developed by Rocky Mountain Institute, hopes to expand rooftop solar access to minority groups and increase distributed generation equity.
To achieve this goal, OES’ Jennifer Zavon and Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson agreed with Solar United Neighbors to set up a solar bulk-buying program. This type of program uses the purchasing power of a large group of people to get price breaks from local residential solar installers. The early sign-up of customers can be used to lower per-project costs, because the installers realize an immediate bump in business.
According to OES, there’s no commitment to sign up for the co-op. Signing up gives homeowners access to more information and the option to have an inspector to determine their home’s rooftop solar potential. Potential customers do not even have to live in Cincinnati to take part.
In 2022, the Cincinnati Electric Aggregation Program will begin receiving 15% of its electricity from solar. A 1,000 acre solar array is being built around 40 miles east of Cincinnati to serve the aggregation program. The array represents one of the largest municipally led solar arrays in the country.
Solarize campaigns were identified by Clean Kilowatts and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as one of the five best ways to close the equity gap in solar adoption, according to a 2020 study. The study also found that these programs work best at the community scale, like this Cincinnati program, rather than at the state or national scale.