Tuesday, April 5, 2011

2011-04-07 "Solar panel installers get on-the-job training, help low-income Vallejo homeowners" by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times Herald" newspaper
With the sun glinting off newly installed solar panels Wednesday afternoon, Mark Todd and his family feel like they are living the "American Dream."
The family of four moved into the Phoenix Circle house in November after Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity bought the foreclosed property and worked its volunteer-powered restoration magic.
Shortly after, a GRID Alternatives flyer arrived in the mail, offering to help the low-income family offset their energy costs through free solar energy panel installation.
"I'm lucky enough to be a homeowner right now," Todd said, watching as the nonprofit Oakland-based GRID Alternatives volunteers aligned the rooftop solar panels. "To have this (solar) come in, I'm double blessed."
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Vallejo was the convergence point for three such solar installations -- the first in Vallejo by this company, said GRID spokeswoman Stacy Sauce. The Phoenix Circle home, plus ones on McGrue Circle and Rhododendron Court, are to save a combined $120,000 in 30 years, the equivalent of planting about 377 trees, company officials said.
While helping to improve the environment by reducing fossil fuel usage and energy bills for low-income homeowners, GRID earns a third benefit:-- on-the-job training for volunteers exploring a career in the solar field, said GRID Bay Area Regional Director Mary Biasotti.
Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis was invited to the Todds' home for the installation, by way of introduction to the project. Biasotti added that she shared her concerns with the mayor about the comparatively high cost of the city's solar permitting fees of $1,500.
Biasotti and Sauce said that potential solar panel recipients are worried that the free offer is "too good to be true," which is why they try to partner with city officials, like Davis, and local organizations -- to lend credence to the program.
The work being done on her new home was pretty clear for 4-year-old Olivia Todd. She told a reporter that it involved "sun," "good" and "lights."
Her dad said he had previously rented a house, and spent a year hunting for a home to call his own -- out from under a landlord's watch. During Todd's search, he saw the property that was eventually to become his, and immediately dismissed it.
In an otherwise quiet hilltop neighborhood, the house had bar-covered windows and a security door, Todd said. He was quick to pass over the foreclosed location, he said, because he assumed the whole neighborhood was unsafe.
After Habitat for Humanity had taken over the home over the summer, Todd took a second look.
"I saw this house a year ago and wouldn't have considered it at all," Todd said. "(Later), I said, 'Wow, what a difference.' I can't believe the work they've done."
The Todds' home was the first of several foreclosure rehabilitation projects in Vallejo by Habitat for Humanity, with the help of a Neighborhood Stabilization Program loan through the city of Vallejo.
For more information on GRID Alternatives, visit them online at www.gridalternatives.org or call (866) 921-4696. Solar installations are reserved for low-income homeowners. For more information on Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity, visit www.solanonapahabitat.org or call (707) 422-1948.

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