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A CDFI Story of Bringing Solar Energy to Power Affordable Housing

Financial and Social Impact

  • 10-acre community solar garden built on unused land
  • Energy cost reduction of about 20% for more than 500 homes
  • Nation’s first community solar project owned by a housing authority
  • Largest low-income community solar garden in Colorado

In Denver, Colorado, affordable housing got a solar boost when investments made through the Enterprise Community Loan Fund’s Impact Note were used to provide a 15-year loan of $2.45 million to the Denver Housing Authority (DHA), to build a 10-acre community solar garden. The solar garden is located on unused land about 30 miles from the low-income housing it serves, providing enough electricity to reduce energy costs by around 20% for more than 500 homes. It’s the nation’s first community solar project owned by a housing authority, and the largest low-income community solar garden in Colorado.

DHA Executive Director Ismael Guerrero said, “It’s really a triple bottom line winner for us as a public agency; to reduce our overall operating cost and our carbon footprint and in this case be able to create employment opportunities.”

The goal of the program, which was accepted under Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards Community Program, is to:

  • Provide renewable energy choices lower energy cost for affordable homes
  • Provide hands-on solar job training and employment opportunities for Denver Housing Authority residents
  • Help meet the City of Denver’s 2020 sustainability goals

The program will be open to other affordable housing providers and housing authorities in the Denver metro area. Partner GRID Alternatives Colorado will provide job training and employment for residents interested in working in the solar industry. DHA has enrolled ten residents in a solar training program during the installation, with the goal of hiring one of them to maintain the facility. Earlier this month Solar Magazine checked in on the project, which completed in late 2017.

Enterprise hopes that the successful funding and energy production from the system can serve as a model to encourage other housing authorities and managers of affordable housing across the nation to pursue similar renewable energy projects and solutions. Partners include Monarch Private Capital and NHT Renewables.

(Date of story publication: March 2018)