Desert Sunshine

Pearl Verre, second from right, celebrates with GRID Alternatives and community partners at the Desert Rose solar ribbon cutting.
Pearl Verre, second from right, celebrates with GRID Alternatives and community partners at the Desert Rose solar ribbon cutting.

“My gosh, it’s like having my own ATM machine,” said Pearl Verre as she looked at the inverter mounted on her wall. “It really is. You know, my last [electricity] bill was 53 cents!” Mrs. Verre is a retired senior living on a fixed income in Palm Desert, California, a region that regularly experiences summer temperatures in the 100s. Hers was one of 84 homes in the Desert Rose affordable housing community to get solar through the Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes program (SASH), the largest SASH solar deployment in a single community to-date.

Completed in 2014, these rooftop installations total 283 kW of clean, reliable solar capacity that is saving families 70-90 percent on their electrical bills, money they can use for other expenses like food, clothing and medical bills, or even to run their air conditioning. The systems are expected to produce $2.6 million in energy cost savings over their anticipated 25-year lifetimes. The power they generate will also contribute to cleaner air in a region that has among the state’s highest air pollution levels, offsetting the carbon equivalent to removing 1,040 cars from the road for one year.

The systems were installed by SASH program administrator GRID Alternatives through its subcontracting partner RGS Energy, which provided a paid position to a solar job training program graduate for each project.

“This project has been an amazing partnership from start to finish,” said Bambi Tran, Regional Director for GRID Alternatives’ Inland Empire office, “with everyone from the city, to the homeowners association, the roofer and the subcontractor pitching in to make solar a reality for all these families, while giving new installers a jumpstart on their careers.”