VGI Energy is a “socially and green-minded company” as SolarLove.org puts it, and Kyocera is a solar manufacturer that produces, among other things, the MyGen Pro system — a package of solar modules and mounting equipment that can be sized for the architectural specs and power requirements of most residential and light commercial buildings, according to its press release. The partnership is part of a push by VGI to bring more sustainability and energy independence, as well as more efficient appliances, infrastructure and plumbing, to residents of Chicago’s low-income urban areas:
VGI’s retrofitted buildings throughout Chicago have been outfitted with 20kW rooftop solar arrays, providing electricity from the clean, renewable energy of the sun and contributing to VGI’s goal of achieving zero-net-energy-capable buildings.
Since 2010, VGI has installed Kyocera solar modules on six Chicago buildings ranging in size from 18 to 70 units, providing more than 600 people with the opportunity to use renewable energy in their daily lives.…
“Our housing developments aim to enhance the quality of life for each resident with programs that integrate independent lifestyles with a sense of community; utilizing solar energy to reduce the environmental footprint is a key component,” said Van Vincent, CEO, VGI Energy.
The announcement is an encouraging sign for several overlapping reasons. First, low-income Americans often have less support and resources than their wealthier fellow citizens — the bulk of public housing assistance goes to homeowners and single-family units, even though most low-income Americans rent or live in multi-family residences. In fact, over half of all federal assistance in 2010 went to households making over $100,000. So any program that scales up investment in the quality and infrastructure of affordable housing is a welcome development.
Second, low-income Americans can also be vulnerable to power outages. After Hurricane Sandy, affordable and public housing projects were left without power for 11 days or more, even while power to wealthier adjacent neighborhoods was quickly restored, leaving residents to tackle dropping temperatures, health problems and disability on their own. Conceivably, outfitting affordable and mutli-family residences with solar arrays provides the opportunity for a bit more energy independence should the grid fail them.