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Blazing a trail with community solar

We’re giving lower-income families in the US an opportunity to play an active role in the future of energy. By connecting residents in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt to solar power at no cost, we hope to show that what’s good for our communities is good for our business too. 

In a disadvantaged corner of New York state, we’re installing 100 solar photo-voltaic systems on residents’ rooftops as we look to share the benefits of energy innovation across the community. 

An extra 50 residents will also be connected to the solar power free of charge. They’ll be picked at random from a group that wanted to be part of the scheme but could not participate because of the condition or position of their roofs.

The Fruit Belt Neighbourhood Solar initiative will generate 500 kilowatts of power. We’ll calculate the financial value of this extra capacity, and every cent will be shared equally between the 150 residents as credits on their bills. 

It’s all part of our aim to test innovations that have the potential to benefit communities of all income levels. It’s about creating a fairer future of energy, where no one’s left behind. 

Scaling it up 

But the project goes beyond this important social side. We also hope to show that the extra power can make the local supply of energy more efficient. And reduce the need for investment in more infrastructure. By proving it makes economic sense, we’ll have a strong case to repeat it in other areas. 

“No-one else is exploring lower-income markets for green energy in this way,” says Regional Executive for Western New York, Dennis Elsenbeck. “We want to show there’s a real case for investing in these communities.” 

We’re partnering with Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on the project. Their facilities, located just west of the Fruit Belt, are a rapidly growing centre for medical education and research. 

Quality of life 

It’s part of National Grid’s and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus’ mission to improve the quality of life in local communities. But one of the biggest challenges we’re facing together is winning the trust of local people: 

People are sceptical when you knock on their door and say we’ve got something that’s free,” says Dennis. “But we’re working to build that trust and show that we want them to be part of this important project. 

"We’re determined to increase the use of clean energy, and we want every sector of society to be able to share in the benefits."

Related information

Published: June 2017