‘More Than Just Clean Power’: A Q&A With Ingleside Community Power’s Eric Heaney

Eric “Kansas” Heaney is leading an effort to start a cooperative organization called Ingleside Community Power.

Eric "Kansas" Heaney
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Eric “Kansas” Heaney is an Ingleside resident who is leading an effort with Ocean Ale House co-owner Miles Escobedo to startup a cooperative organization called Ingleside Community Power that will use solar power as a means to build clean energy independence and community. The Light interviewed Heaney ahead of ICP’s first community meeting to learn more about the organization and its intentions for the neighborhood.

What is Ingleside Community Power?

Ingleside Community Power is a new grassroots organization dedicated to opening up the opportunity for solar to be more than just clean power. We are a project of People Power Solar,  a cooperative with the mission to build permanent wealth, power and resilience for future generations. We will initiate the installation of new solar panels in Ingleside. Our members will control the organization by stewarding new solar installations, attending events, voting and running for leadership positions.

Tell us a little about your background and what got you interested in this project.

I am an Ingleside resident. By day I am a software engineer in San Francisco, and in my free time I volunteer for groups that advocate for the right to water and power.

I am passionate about clean energy and community resilience. For the past six years, I have volunteered for various community groups in the East Bay, where I have seen the problems that low-income working families face when utilities shut off water and power. I have volunteered by testifying at public meetings and delivering food and water to people who had their utilities shut off.

As important as the work of direct advocacy is, I learned that communities need to address the root cause of the problem of inequitable utility access as well as alleviating the symptoms. I decided to start a new project group in the form of a cooperative in the Ingleside with the help of my friends and neighbors.

What are the obstacles to installing solar energy right now, and how will this project work to overcome those obstacles?

Right now there are many obstacles to installing solar. The first is property ownership. Most Americans are renters who do not own property, especially in a high-density city like San Francisco.

Second, financing a solar array can be prohibitively costly. A large array could typically cost around $25,000 to install.

Third, the size of the solar array is limited based on the energy consumption of the building, and the sharing of power beyond property lines is currently prohibited, as is co-ownership of solar assets. A future where a solar array on one building could provide power for an entire city block is currently out of reach.

However, with the power of an engaged group made up of passionate, informed individuals, we can partner with willing property owners and spread the cost of solar installations among the community.

The members of Ingleside Community Power could demand legislative changes from our elected representatives to remove the barriers to solar power.

How will Ingleside Community Power bring solar energy to the Ingleside?

ICP will form a cooperative and partner with property owners who want to enter an agreement to let the cooperative install and own panels on their roof. In exchange, property owners get energy cost reductions.

To pay for the solar panel installations, ICP will raise funds from the community. By investing in a local solar array, you become a member of the cooperative, giving you equal democratic say and ownership within the cooperative.

Will property owners who have panels installed by Ingleside Community Power get energy bill savings?

Property owners will get at least 10% and up to 30% in cost savings on their energy bill.

Where do you see the organization in a year?

My goal is for ICP to have completed two large solar installations in the Ingleside. By doing so, I want to build a stable membership base of the ICP cooperative so that we as a neighborhood can work together and plan for the installation of more solar panels on homes and businesses.

Ingleside Community Power will hold its first public meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at Ingleside Library, located at 1298 Ocean Ave., starting at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.inglesidecommunitypower.com.

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