Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Maryland Clean Energy Center and the city to announce an agreement to develop solar installation financing options for low-income homeowners in Baltimore.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Maryland Clean Energy Center and the city to announce an agreement to develop solar installation financing options for low-income homeowners in Baltimore. (Sarah Gantz/The Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore signed an agreement Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Maryland Clean Energy Center to develop a financing model to make solar energy more accessible to low-income residents.

Existing financing options for installing solar panels require a large up-front investment or high credit ratings, which can be prohibitive for many low-income homeowners. Details of Baltimore's financing model are still to be determined, but city officials said the goal will be to eliminate some of the barriers that prevent low-income residents from making the investment — as much as $15,000 for a typical Baltimore rowhouse.

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"We want to prove the clean-energy revolution in our country can be designed to include everyone," said David Foster, a senior adviser at the Energy Department.

The new program eventually could serve as a national model, he said.

Foster was among the officials and lawmakers, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and John Sarbanes, who announced plans for the program outside a Belair-Edison home selected to receive solar panels as part of another city initiative to install solar panels in low-income areas.

Through that program, announced earlier this year, Baltimore committed $200,000 for solar installations at 30 houses near Morgan State University.

The city hopes to finalize details of the financing program, including a maximum income level to qualify and whether panels will be owned or leased by homeowners, within the next six months, said Alice Kennedy, deputy commissioner for the Department of Housing and Community Development in charge of sustainability efforts. The city will aim the solar program toward residents who have participated in its home weatherization program, she said.

In addition to improving access to solar energy, the effort will include a workforce training program for jobs in renewable energy.

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