During NC WARN’s Solarize programs in 2014-16, a small percentage of each contract was put into a Sharing Solar fund to help lower-wealth North Carolinians share in the benefits of solar.
The last part of that fund was donated in August 2017 to Chatham Habitat for Humanity, which used it to create a revolving loan fund to put solar on the homes it builds. Eight homes have had solar installed as of January 2020.
“This addition of the solar PV is something that is really helpful to our families being able to affordably live in their homes long term,” says Harvey Harman, Director of Construction and Land Acquisition/Development at Chatham Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat reduces the cost of solar by using some donated equipment and labor. It pays for the installations from the revolving fund, then adds that cost to the no-interest home mortgage. This adds around $10/month to the homeowners’ mortgage payments, while saving around $30/month on their electric bills.
Other partners in the project are NextClimate, the Carrboro nonprofit that partnered with NC WARN on Solarize the Triangle in 2016, and United Solar Initiative, a Chapel Hill nonprofit that procures donations of equipment and labor.
Chatham Habitat is also partnering with Oak Ridge National Laboratories to explore using repurposed electric car batteries for solar electric storage.