Letting the Sunshine In

Ipsun Solar customer David Roodman is pleased with the solar installation on his DC rooftop. Photo: Ipsun Solar

If you’re a DC homeowner, chances are that you’re aware of the money saving advantages of adding solar energy to your home. While installing a solar array requires an upfront investment, most homeowners can recover this cost in four-five years while significantly reducing their electricity bills by as much as 50 percent (an average of $500 per year for a DC household) for years to come.

But many people just can’t afford that upfront cost.  The DC Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) Solar for All program (https://doee.dc.gov/solarforall) implemented by the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) is working with DC solar businesses to make solar energy installations affordable for all DC homeowners.

Solar for All (SFA) was initiated in 2017 with a goal of providing 100,000 DC homes with solar energy in line with the Sustainable DC Plan and the Mayor’s commitment to a carbon neutral DC by 2050. While residents must be income-qualified to benefit in the program, the threshold is approximately $100,000 for a family of four.

Ted Trabue, Director of the DCSEU notes, “This spring and summer, the DCSEU is excited to work with four local solar installers — Ipsun Solar, Greenscape Energy, Solar Solution, and WDC Solar — to bring solar technology and critical electricity bill savings to residents who need it most right now.”

Ipsun Solar (https://www.ipsunsolar.com/) is excited to be a part of the SFA cohort. Co-founder Joe Marhamati said, “We’re thrilled to be working with DOEE and DCSEU to provide free solar installations for low and middle income District homeowners. Solar for All is in line with our company ethic. It gives us an opportunity to give back to the community and install solar for homeowners who might otherwise not have the opportunity to go solar.” Through a cost-share with DC SEU, Ipsun will install solar arrays on up to 15 DC homes.

Ipsun Solar is bringing sunshine power to DC. Photo: Ipsun Solar

Marhamati and co-founder Herve Billiet met when they were both working at the US Department of Energy disbursing clean energy loans through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They decided to start Ipsun Solar in 2016. The name comes from the Latin Ipsum meaning “your own” or “itself,” as they wanted to build the kind of company that they would want to buy from.

“Many of the early solar installers were lackluster,” said Marhamati. “They used third-party contractors for their work, they were often unresponsive to their clients, and they didn’t treat their employees fairly. We decided to become a part of the Amicus Solar Cooperative and build a company that offers a living wage and health care for our employees.”

They needed an office space, and as luck would have it, a law firm moved out of top floor of the Watergate and subleased the space to them for pennies on the dollar.  Joe recalls, “We were just renting one small office, but we essentially had run of the entire top floor, with sweeping views of the Potomac River. We hosted community gatherings on the rooftop. We were fewer than five employees at the time, but when people came to see, we looked like a Fortune 500 company!”

Their efforts paid off. Ipsun Solar is thriving and has installed solar arrays on over 300 homes to date, with business growing exponentially every year.

But they are looking for new ways to promote clean energy.  Ipsun Solar is one of the early supporters of the Clean Energy Credit Union which provides clean energy loans for solar installations as well as geothermal energy, energy efficiency appliances, electric vehicles and electric bikes. The credit union will be adding a green home mortgage in the near future as well. As a not-for-profit credit union, 100% of it’s deposits (checking accounts, CDs, etc) are invested into clean energy projects.

If you want to see if your household qualifies for Solar for All, visit website www.dcseu.com/SolarForAll or call 202-479-2222. There’s even a Solar for All Community Solar program, whereby residents who live in apartments or in homes that can’t support solar can sign up to receive solar electricity bill credits. And if you want to learn more about the Clean Energy Credit Union, visit www.cleanenergycu.org. Anyone who believes in this mission can open a checking account for as little as $5.  Reduce your carbon emissions and make the world a better place – all while saving yourself some cash. Let the sunshine in!

Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, un urban homesteader, a writer, and blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler.  She is also the Chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, however, perspectives expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.