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How a former NBA star is bringing solar power and jobs to low-income neighborhoods

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By: Octavio Blanco, CNN Money

(CNN) - Mark Davis used to be a professional basketball player for the NBA. But what he most wants to be known for is bringing solar power and jobs to low-income neighborhoods.

His company, WDC Solar, not only provides free solar energy to low-income residents in Washington, D.C., but it has also created close to 20 jobs in the area -- with pay that starts at $15 to $23 an hour.

"It's a great way for people with just a GED to get into an industry that's growing rapidly and do well for themselves -- if they are willing to work hard," said Davis,

Another added bonus: Davis said residents save 30% to 35% on their energy bills after solar panels are installed. "It's money that is staying, going towards groceries, medication, education," he said.

Davis founded WDC in 2009 after realizing that it was mainly wealthy people who could afford the upfront cost to install solar power and they were reaping the added extra reward of hefty tax credits for using the renewable energy. "They were wealthy and taking advantage of incentives to pay off the installation over the years," he said.

Davis wanted to spread the solar wealth.

The Obama administration helped make that possible. In 2009, as part of his economic stimulus bill, the president issued a series of mandates to encourage the production of solar and renewable energy.

Not only did the government start investing more in renewable energy projects, but it also allowed people or companies who wanted to invest in solar projects to receive tax incentives -- just as homeowners who had installed solar panels had for years. That enabled Davis to drum up some investors for his company and seek funding from the government as well.

He also tapped into local funding through a renewable energy program from the D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) and the Sustainable D.C. Fund, a $7 million fund established in 2012 to improve sustainability and the quality of life in the city.

With all of these sources of funding at his disposal, Davis was able to get his company off the ground and provide solar panels at no cost to the low-income families in the area.

Read the full story in CNN Money.

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