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Launch of Reduced-Cost Solar Generator Initiative for Low-Income Households in St. Thomas and St. John Enters Next Phase

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The second phase of a program aimed at providing low-income families on St. Thomas and St. John with reduced-cost solar generators has officially launched. The Share the Sun program is being implemented by Community Action Now, a Georgia-based nonprofit organization that assisted over 55 families in purchasing solar generators at a reduced cost in 2022.

This year, the program has been expanded to include low-income families on St. John. Eligible purchasers will receive a 100-watt solar panel that is mounted on wheels and connects to a 60Ah sealed lead-acid battery, which is also on wheels, making the system fully portable. The battery unit also contains an 1800-watt pure sine wave inverter, which allows for AC power output (110V). The system is equipped with a DC outlet and a USB port for added power options.

For greater output, a second solar panel and up to four battery/inverter units can be connected together. The single panel and battery unit typically retail for $1,200, but those who are eligible for the subsidized price will pay “no more than $350,” according to Iffat Walker, the Executive Director of Community Action Now. This means that eligible households will be able to sustainably generate their own power source, reducing their reliance on the grid and providing resilience in the face of potential natural disasters.

For those whose incomes do not allow them to qualify for the subsidized price, the units are still available for purchase at full price. Funds generated from the sale of these units will be used to expand access to the Share the Sun program and help more families gain access to solar power. According to Walker, money received from income-eligible participants will be reinvested into the program to build its capacity, and private donors will provide additional funding.

Given the level of interest that Phase 1 of the program attracted from the public, and the launch of Phase 2, efforts are now focused on securing more support to expand the reduced-cost program to St. Croix. Walker explained that the expansion to St. John was possible due to the availability of an on-island partner, and similar support is needed for St. Croix. Several organizations, such as the Rotary Club of St. Thomas, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Conservation Society, and Island Green Living, have already provided support to the Share the Sun program. However, Walker is looking to build a coalition of partners and secure funding to cover upfront costs and logistics, such as the storage and distribution of devices.

Furthermore, Community Action Now is also looking to develop a training program for solar installers and repair technicians to ensure that those who receive units from Share the Sun can maintain them for ongoing effective operation. According to Walker, there is a great need for this type of talent in the territory, making it a huge opportunity for human development. The Share the Sun program is aimed at providing low-income families with a sustainable source of power and improving the quality of life for people in the USVI.

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