Bloomington Program Selects 12 Households for Subsidized Solar Panels

March 7, 2019

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana -- Tora Knapp and her husband, Clarence, attended a Solar Indiana Renewable Energy Network event in Bloomington during spring 2018, but they knew solar panels were not in their budget.

“We’ve wanted solar panels for a long time but that’s a huge buy-in expense, with a slow pay out,” Tora Knapp said.

At the SIREN event, the Knapps learned about Indiana Solar For All, an organization whose mission is to increase access to solar power for low-income households. They applied and were approved for the installation of 10 solar panels on their Habitat for Humanity home.

This is an image of the Knapp family standing by a solar inverter they installed and activated.
Tora, Clarence and Bailey Knapp stand by the inverter they installed and activated. Photo courtesy of Anne Hedin

The Knapps were one of the four families who had their solar panels installed in the fall; another four installations will happen this spring.

ISFA selected 12 more families after their initial success, with the intent of continuing their mission to expand solar to everyone, regardless of income.

Initial funding for ISFA came from the Solarize Bloomington campaign, which is sponsored by the City of Bloomington and SIREN. By taking advantage of Solarize’s group-buy arrangement, ISFA is able to pass on savings to the families selected for the program.

Anne Hedin, volunteer treasurer and media coordinator for ISFA, said the goals of the organization are to get more solar panels on homes and to help lower-income families.

“Extending solar is a very big motivator for all of us,” Hedin said. “But extending it to people who need it the most is the other side of that.”

The program receives funding through donations and grants and runs on the efforts of volunteers. ISFA’s board members are all volunteers, and the labor of installing the solar panels is provided by volunteers.

This is a picture of Tora Knapp and Stephanie Kimball handing a solar panel to volunteers on the roof.
Tora Knapp and Stephanie Kimball, founder and president of ISFA, prepare to hand a panel to volunteers on the roof. Photo courtesy of Anne Hedin

According to Knapp, the program would not have worked so well without the eight families selected to take part in the first installations.

“We had electricians, construction workers, people familiar with fundraising, and public relations,” said Knapp. “So, it was like this dream team of eight families, and you could never put together that group again.”

When she started the program, founder and president Stephanie Kimball knew it would take the efforts of everyone involved for it to be successful. That is why she encouraged families to stay involved even after completing the installations required as part of their agreement with ISFA.

This is a picture of several volunteers raising a solar panel on a roof.
Volunteers raise a solar panel to the roof crew on ISFA's most difficult installation of the fall. Photo courtesy of Anne Hedin

Members of the new families have already embraced ISFA’s group effort model. Harold Evans is part of the group of 12 new families, and he looks forward to helping keep the program going.

“I plan to, even after we have our solar installed, to just continue working and doing whatever I can to get as many people to have solar on their roofs as possible,” he said.

Evans retired from a career of violin making and has since returned to school to learn about woodworking, auto repair, welding and electrical work, among other skills. He thinks these abilities will make him an asset to ISFA. He and his wife, Beth, are eager to help in any way they can.

Like other families anticipating the installation of solar panels at their homes, the Evanses are amazed the program even exists and are thankful for the opportunity.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, so this is kind of a dream come true for us,” said Evans. “It almost seems impossible.”

Installations for the 12 new families will start in the summer.

Bloomington Program Selects 12 Households for Subsidized Solar Panels