Thanks to a federal grant, Santa Barbara will soon be equipping low-income housing with environmentally friendly solar panels.

The grant, which totals $300,000, stems from this year’s $780 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has set aside money for environmental modifications to public housing. The renovations are expected to stimulate the local economy by creating green jobs, while simultaneously reducing energy use.

Rob Pearson, executive director and CEO of the Santa Barbara Housing Authority, said he anticipates a small but discernable boost for local contractors, estimating that the new funding “will either save or create 6.1 jobs.”

The grant will be used to install photovoltaic panels at two of the Housing Authority’s complexes, Vista La Cumbre and Presidio Springs, as well as their maintenance facility.

In addition to creating jobs, Pearson said the panels will save money by reducing electricity consumption at the Authority’s facilities.

“We’re hoping for basically an offset of our existing energy use of about 100 percent,” Pearson said. “[The solar panels will be] providing energy for what we call the Authority’s common electricity.”

The Housing Authority expects to complete work on the solar panels by April 2010.

Money for the project came specifically from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, which has granted nearly $300 million to housing projects throughout the country.

The $300,000 grant to the Housing Authority comes on the heels of a $1.1 million grant it received from the federal government last summer. This money has gone largely to low-rent housing for the disabled and elderly.

“We have spent approximately $450,000,” Pearson said. “We predicted it to save nine jobs.”