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Solar Project Partnership Powers Low and Moderate-Income Housing

Solar Project Partnership Powers Low and Moderate-Income Housing

The team at Solar Design Studio has been honored to work in partnership with the Westside Housing Organization through KCP&L Solar on the restoration of an historic property in Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood. Too often, solar implementation is out of reach for those with low or moderate incomes, but partnerships like this one are bringing solar power to diverse communities that can benefit greatly as a result.

For this particular project, their largest yet, the dedicated staff at Westside Housing Organization set their sights on rehabilitating a dilapidated, abandoned building at 8th and Woodland. The historic property is being turned into a mixed-use commercial and residential space, with retail, restaurant, or office space on the first floor and 10 residential units above. The building was purchased for a small sum from the Land Bank and benefits from donations and investment from several partners in its transformation, including the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and Neighborworks America.

Affordable Housing Matters

In a recent conversation, Warren Adams-Leavitt, the Manager of Strategic Energy Initiatives for Westside Housing, noted that Kansas City is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. As development in the Downtown and Crossroads areas has displaced low and moderate-income families, the city is still short 23,000 housing units. The resulting increases in rent prices have made it difficult for these tenants to find adequate, affordable housing. “It’s actually getting worse (for low and moderate-income tenants), Adams-Leavitt says, “because buildings that were affordable aren’t anymore, which puts pressure on housing prices and rents as a result.”

This $1.3M project will increase the stock of safe, affordable housing in the Northeast neighborhood, transform a dilapidated building into a community asset, and support city initiatives around renewable, sustainable energy development.

Solar Energy Makes a Major Impact

Because the building required major renovation, it became feasible to include multiple solar roof-top units into the project design. A grant from the ISC is funding the installation of 83 panels, which will generate enough power to supply 100% of the residential tenant’s energy needs. “We asked Solar Design Studio to design a way to plug solar panels through an inverter into 4 residential meters,” Adams-Leavitt says, because “we believe strongly that solar energy ought to be available for everyone in Kansas City and wanted to figure out a way to deliver it to our low-income tenants.”

The addition of solar panels to this particular project will have a big impact on the residents of the building, who will not have to add an electric bill to their list of monthly expenses. Adams-Leavitt notes that energy cost spikes in the summer and winter are especially hard on low and moderate-income tenants, who may not be able to respond as quickly to price fluctuations during high-demand months.

The Westside Housing Organization hopes to include solar energy in all future housing projects to remove this burden from tenants and to make sustainable, renewable energy available to a wider group of Kansas Citians.

Solar Design for Everyone

The Solar Design Studio team has embraced this exciting renovation and enjoyed working with the partners involved to show that solar energy can power low and moderate-income housing and make an impact on the lives of diverse communities. The project is not without its challenges. As Adams-Leavitt noted, “This is a messier process because of the age (110 years) of the building. The solar aspect has to work alongside the larger redevelopment project and respond quickly to decisions about electrical service and structural engineering, among others.”

As a result, the solar design and installation had to be flexible and able to evolve to support the project’s changing needs. Luckily, we love a challenge and look for opportunities to problem-solve with our clients to determine how best to incorporate solar technology into their construction or renovation plans. We strongly believe in the power of solar energy to create sustainable development and ease the burden of energy prices on tenants, homeowners, and commercial buildings alike.

We’re proud to work with the Westside Housing Organizations and other partners on the project at 8th and Woodland, and look forward to seeing how it positively impacts the local community and further sustainable development. This project proves the value of solar installation in low and moderate-income housing and will hopefully become a template for more projects and even wider impact in the future.

Contact the team at Solar Design Studio to discuss your solar projects needs!

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Bob Solger is Mr. Solar to the Kansas City region. With a passion to forge change and be green well before it was cool to do so, Bob has led the regional market as an engineer and spokesperson for the adoption of solar energy. He completes his projects professionally and continues to inspire by teaching others how to get the most from solar installations.

Ace Wagner

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