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Disadvantaged Fresno Neighborhood Gets Rooftop Solar

Words by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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One thing the central Californian city of Fresno has is plenty of sunshine. All of those hot, summer days where the thermometer climbs over 100 degrees will be put to use in one of the city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods -- think: rooftop solar panels.

A rooftop solar panel installation on a home in Fresno’s Roosevelt neighborhood is just one of the first funded by California’s cap-and-trade program. The program has $832 million earmarked for energy efficiency, public transit, affordable housing and other projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At least 25 percent of the funds are required to be invested in the state’s most disadvantaged communities, such as Fresno’s Roosevelt neighborhood.

The rooftop solar installation project in Fresno is part of the Low Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), which is administered by the California Department of Community Services and Development. The project is funded with $75 million to install rooftop solar panels, solar hot water heater systems and weatherization measures.

An estimated 1,780 low-income houses across the state are slated to have solar panel systems installed on their roofs through the LIWP program, which will generate about 5.5 megawatts of energy.

Fresno is not the only San Joaquin Valley city that is expected to receive rooftop solar panels in disadvantaged communities. In addition to Fresno, Merced, Madera and Tulare counties are also expected to be part of the project. The Community Services Department contracted with the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, which is partnering with SunPower to install the solar panels in the San Joaquin Valley.

“These investments will help power a brighter, healthier, and more prosperous future for Fresno and for cities like it across California,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León in a statement. “SB 535 ensures that our most disproportionately impacted communities see the cost savings, job creation, and environmental benefits of clean energy policies.”

The San Joaquin Valley has some of the worst air and economic conditions in the nation


The eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley is home to over 3 million people, or about 10 percent of California’s population. Though largely rural, the valley also has its fair share of cities and towns. It is expected to be the fastest growing region of the state, with a growth rate 65 percent higher than the state average projected through 2030.

The valley is also a region that is behind the rest of the state in most socioeconomic and environmental indicators, according to the University of California, Merced’s Center of Excellence on Health Disparities. It has some of the worst air quality and highest poverty rates in the state, and even the nation. For the past two years, every major valley city is listed in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report as having the highest ozone or particle pollution.

Solar rooftop installations in disadvantaged communities not only benefits the valley economically, but will also help clear the region’s poor air quality. It’s a proverbial win-win situation for the area that is considered to be the agriculture center of the world.

Image credit: Flickr/CoCreatr

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman