This article is part of the March 2023 edition of our publication The Sol SOURCE. Click here to read the full publication.
In 2020, we announced our first power purchase and community investment agreement. The agreement was a milestone in our “Infrastructure + Impact” mission, representing a groundbreaking strategy to leverage clean power generation to invest in under-resourced communities and communities disproportionately harmed by climate change. Under that agreement, Sol Systems is charged to craft community-focused clean energy solutions and support local workforce development by partnering with local organizations that are working to address challenges in their communities.
Today, our initiative has grown from five organizations based in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. to 10 organizations serving a variety of rural and urban communities. Like their predecessors in the program, our newest partners are focused on renewable energy, environmental justice, and job creation and training. These partnerships also bring new support to our “Pathway to Solarization” objective, which recognizes the importance of home repairs and energy efficiency upgrades to expanding access to solar, as well as educating and growing the clean energy workforce. Below are a few of the organizations that we have worked with closely over the last year and will continue to work with in the year to come.
Based in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian Voices envisions an Appalachia with healthy ecosystems and resilient local economies that allow communities to thrive. They work to increase energy efficiency and end harmful fossil-fuel practices (such as mountaintop-removal coal mining), and strive to shift to clean energy sources, including solar and wind power. Sol Systems’ partnership will establish a solar readiness fund. This fund will expand the work of Appalachian Voices’ established solar finance fund, which provides catalytic support to unlock solar investments in coal communities. Specifically, the solar readiness fund targets facilities whose key barrier to solar is poor roof conditions.
Based in Christiansburg, Virginia, Community Housing Partners was founded to perform home repairs for low-income families living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. As the complexity of home repairs grew, the organization incorporated, received a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) designation and became Virginia’s first provider of federal Weatherization Assistance Program services. Sol Systems’ partnership will support energy efficiency and safety upgrades, improving residents’ quality of life and reducing the energy burden in a low-income apartment community in Pembroke, Virginia.
Based in Washington, D.C., Rebuilding Together DC Alexandria is part of a national network of affiliates working to preserve affordable homeownership, revitalize neighborhoods, and provide critical home-repair services that eliminate health and safety hazards free of charge to those in need. Sol Systems’ partnership will be used to make energy-efficient upgrades to two facilities: an affordable housing facility for homeless veterans and a housing unit for low-income households owned by So Others Might Eat (SOME). SOME is a Washington, D.C. organization and existing partner of Sol Systems working to help break the cycle of poverty and homelessness in the city. SOME is the current beneficiary of a 915 kW community solar installation recently completed for FedEx at a facility in Washington, D.C. FedEx is allotting part of the electricity bill credits generated by the solar installation to offset the yearly electricity costs of two SOME facilities.
Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Climate Access Fund is a green bank whose mission is to reduce the energy burden and carbon footprint of Maryland’s low- and moderate-income (LMI) households by facilitating access to clean community solar projects. Sol Systems’ partnership will support the financing and implementation of a community solar project at the Henderson Hopkins School in East Baltimore, which will reserve 100% of the solar power generated for LMI households in the community. Other community benefits will include solar workforce training and an after-school club for middle school students.
Based in Petersburg, Virginia, Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative was created when four organizations (the Southeast CARE Coalition, Appalachian Voices, the Federal Policy Office of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and New Virginia Majority) saw the need for statewide coordination to support Virginia organizations addressing environmental justice issues. Sol Systems’ partnership will support the organization’s efforts to establish a solar-plus-storage resilience hub and launch workforce development initiatives in Petersburg, a historically under-resourced community in Virginia.
In the year ahead, we will continue to foster relationships with our current community partners while expanding our impact with new ones. Our continuing partnerships deepen the impact we have in D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia, while our new partners will allow us to expand our work into new geographical areas, specifically rural Appalachia in Virginia and North Carolina.