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They won't get you quite this far, but close. (Lydia DePillis)

Solar energy advocates have long been conscious of an image problem: That they’re a bunch of middle-to-upper class liberal white people in places like Mount Pleasant and Capitol Hill, taking thousands of dollars in city and federal money to put solar panels on their roofs. Even though rebates help and the systems pay themselves off over time through lower electricity bills, going solar still requires cash up front.

Yesterday, D.C. Solar United Neighborhoods took a big step towards changing that impression, with the announcement of a program to collect donations from solar installers and individuals to help community organizations put solar systems on their roofs. Six installers have stepped up as charter members, pledging either $500 per installation they do with D.C. SUN members or an amount that varies with the size of the installation—-a pretty smart setup.