Solar on affordable-housing complex in Austin provides free energy to residents

Foundation Communities, Spear Commercial & Industrial, and Trina Solar US partner to bring equitable renewable energy project to life.

January 17, 2023Anne Fischer

A rooftop solar system is planned at a low- to moderate-income apartment complex in Austin, Texas. Trina Solar has partnered with an affordable-housing nonprofit, Foundation Communities, along with Spear Commercial & Industrial, to help power the Waterloo Terrace apartment complex and provide free solar energy to the complex’s residents.

Foundation Communities not only provides affordable housing, but it has strong sustainability goals and achievements. Since 2014, the non-profit has more than doubled its solar capacity and now has 1.1 MW installed across 14 properties.

“We are a Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge partner and have goals to reduce our energy and water consumption by 20% over ten years,” said Katelynn Essig, director of sustainability at Foundation Communities. “We also have a solar capacity goal to install 1.5-megawatt (MW) and the solar at Waterloo Terrace helped us meet that goal one year early.

High operating costs often put a strain on the budgets of non-profits like Foundation Communities, but energy is one of the highest controllable operating costs in affordable housing. With a large rooftop space, Foundation Communities made a commitment to controlling those costs by installing the 250 KW solar system on the Austin apartment complex.

“We pay the utilities for the 132 single adults that live with us and so the solar savings significantly reduce our operating costs, which allows us to invest that money back into the residents” said Essig.

Spear Commercial & Industrial is an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) company focusing on commercial and industrial (C&I) solar projects. Spear chose Trina Solar US to help streamline and enable the most efficient and cost-effective project possible. The C&I Solutions team at Trina Solar US has helped with design, and installations, from financing to development to supply chain management to interconnection.

“By providing a complete solution, we’re making it easier for customers to finance and install large solar projects,” said Adam Jordan, Head of US commercial solutions at Trina Solar. “When all the equipment is compatible and optimized, including modules, inverters, and racking, projects become less challenging and more profitable.”

Spear took advantage of Trina’s smart commercial solar solution to make Foundation Communities’ sustainability goals a reality. Trina’s smart solutions optimizes the performance of each module, while allowing for shady areas in the design as well as different roof orientations.

“The Trina group I work with sells solar panels, the racking system, and the inverters all together so we don’t have compatibility issues,” said Mark Rangel, executive vice president of Spear. “And Trina negotiates all pricing with other manufacturers to deliver a solution that is extremely competitive. I see a lot of value in that because we’re a small company. I don’t have a large purchasing department and so it really helps.”

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