Local Knoxville Nonprofit Hosts Open House for Low-income Solar Home 

Energy efficient homes powered by solar + storage and made possible through innovative financing practices serve as models for other sustainable and affordable housing options for many families in Knoxville and surrounding areas in the years to come. 

Guest Blog | July 7, 2022 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Justice, Solar, Tennessee

This blog post was written by Brady Watson, former Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

On Friday, May 6th, Knoxville-based Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED) hosted an open house for their first solar home. The home features an ultra energy efficient design, with a 5 kilowatt (kW) rooftop solar array consisting of 12 panels, and a 16 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery backup from GE to store energy generated from the panels and provide power when the solar is not producing.

The event featured several local dignitaries including Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, and Knoxville City Council members Seema Singh and Tommy Smith, all of whom supported the project. 

Knoxville dignitaries including Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs (suit), Knoxville City Councilwoman Seema Singh (grey dress), and SEEED Executive Director Stan Johnson (green shirt) cut the ribbon outside the solar home.

Building Generational Wealth Through Homeownership

SEEED seeks to address the highest Black poverty rate in the Southeast, with 42% of Black Knoxvillians living in poverty. As one way to address this high poverty rate, SEEED is selling the solar home to a low-income family as a way to build generational wealth and create a pathway out of poverty.  The low energy bills that will result from all the power generated by the solar panels and stored on the batteries, coupled with the ultra energy efficient design that includes insulation in the attic and walls, plus a high efficiency heat pump to heat and cool the home, is a practical solution to poverty and high energy burdens that will benefit the new homeowners and their family for years to come.

For most of the year, the homeowners should pay almost nothing on their electricity bill, because almost all of their power needs will be met by solar power + storage. Additionally, the future homeowner’s need for power will be reduced because of the weatherization measures taken. 

Solar panels on the roof of the SEEED solar home.

The project has been ongoing for nearly a year, with early financial support from us at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). SEEED plans to build several more homes in the coming years that benefit the environment and community at large. In fact, SEEED recently broke ground on its second ultra-energy efficient solar home that will be sold to another low-income family to help them build generational wealth and promote clean and affordable energy.

These homes and financing that will allow the home to be sold below-market rates, and will have give the family equity of approximately $70,000 as soon as they move in, serve as models for other sustainable and affordable housing options for many families in Knoxville and surrounding areas in the years to come. 

Building Pathways Out of Poverty with Workforce Training

Part of SEEED’s mission is to train young people in Knoxville on workforce development skills, including weatherization, to build pathways out of poverty. Many of those youth workers assisted in the construction of the home and will continue to hone their skills as more solar homes are built in the Knoxville area.

A recent Department of Energy jobs report found that in Tennessee, 4,870 workers were employed in the solar electric generation sector – the second-highest sector in the energy generation category behind hydroelectric generation. Additionally, the report found that 885 workers were employed in the energy storage sector. And the energy efficiency sector employed nearly 50,000 workers in Tennessee. The electric power generation and energy efficiency sectors are projected to grow more than 1% in the next 12 months, according to the report. SEEED is helping employ workers in all these fields.

JD Jackson, Chief Operating Officer at SEEED, stands in front of the solar home.

We look forward to more clean energy homes in Knoxville and beyond and will continue to advocate for policies to ensure equitable and affordable access to energy in a state that is growing increasingly hostile to clean energy. We are proud to be in the Knoxville Water and Energy coalition with SEEED. Learn more about our work in Tennessee and SEEED’s work.

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