In an effort to combat climate change and to provide green energy to its poorest neighborhoods, California is giving free solar panels to low-income residents.

Grid Alternatives, a non-profit firm focused on the transition to renewable energy, is leading this initiative and aims to provide solar panels to 1,600 families by the end of 2016.

Grid Alternatives’ initiative is being funded by California’s cap and trade program, which sets a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases a company can emit and requires that polluting companies buy credit for each ton used. $14.7 million raised by the cap and trade program is going towards Grid Alternatives’ initiative.

Typically, solar panels are unaffordable for poor families, costing $15,000 or more for installation. The high cost has made solar panels accessible mainly to the wealthy. Grid Alternatives aims to change this by including the poor in the shift to clean and affordable energy.

The solar panels benefit low-income families by increasing their access to clean energy and by lowering their household electricity bills. One resident, Roy Rivera, who is disabled and lives on a fixed income, will save around $818 in the first year of having the solar panels.

“When you have a budget like ours, which is stretched just about as far as you can go, it makes a big difference,” said Rivera

Julian Foley, communications director for Grid Alternatives explains that the money-saving benefits of the initiative will help low income families in the long run, “These systems are saving families money every month for food, for clothes, for medical expenses.”

In its 30 year life span, the solar panels will save residents around $22,800.

Jowelle M. is a college student interested in sociology, political science, and Spanish. Aside from academics, Jowelle enjoys blogging, reading, music, and spending time with family. She is happiest when she is working with others to improve the community.