In April, and just in time for Earth Day 2019, Ward 7 residents celebrated the ground-breaking of two solar energy projects associated with the 100-year-old Dupont Park Seventh Day Adventist Church located in this historic Ward 7 neighborhood. But this solar project has an interesting humanitarian twist. The church is participating in the DC Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE)’s Solar for All DC program which provides solar electricity to low-income households which will reduce their energy bills by 50 percent by 2032. The church project will deliver 100 percent of the electricity generated to 47 low-income Ward 7 families at no cost to the residents. The installation consists of two projects – one on the church roof and another one an adjacent canopy area. The resulting total utility bill savings for participating families is estimated at $23,500 per year, or $470,000 over the 20-year life of the project. The total project should generate some 168kW of energy and is expected to be completed and delivering electricity to families by mid-2019.
Community solar programs are a new model for solar energy that is rapidly gaining traction because they allow anyone who pays a utility bill – whether they rent or own a home – to “subscribe” to locally-produced and renewable solar electricity. Unlike other solar sources, community solar doesn’t require long-term contract commitments, credit checks or hefty down payments. Community solar can provide all DC residents with a hassle-free clean energy alternative to the coal-powered electricity that is most commonly provided through Pepco.
The DC-based non-profit, Groundswell, is participating in Solar for All DC’s community solar program as both a project developer and subscriber manager. According to Groundswell CEO, Michelle Moore, “Solar power can do more than deliver clean electricity, it can empower communities. We believe solar can be a ‘Made in DC’ industry that helps local families, businesses, and neighborhoods to thrive.”
Senior Pastor Marcus Harris of Dupont Park Seventh Day Adventist Church is proud of the church’s contribution to the neighborhood. “We are happy to partner as the faith community representative in this collaborative effort to positively impact the quality of life of Ward 7 residents with renewable energy. Helping to provide households who otherwise might not be able to take advantage of the benefits and cost savings of solar power aligns with our congregation’s missional focus on serving our community. We applaud the visionary leadership of our city and Groundswell for courageously moving forward with this project whose time has come.”
Groundswell has its own links to the Ward 7 community and is especially proud of this project. Lenwood Coleman is Groundswell’s Vice President of Solar Development. He grew up in the Dupont Park neighborhood, attends the church, and is a current DC Ward 7 resident. “It is truly an honor for my family and me to give back to the church and community in a manner that will be felt for years to come, thanks in part to the mayor’s Solar For All initiative.” Coleman said that he hopes the the dupont Park Church’s actions will inspire other faith-based organizations to take the same approach with their members and communities.
But the community service aspect of the project goes beyond providing solar powered electricity to low income families. The solar project installation itself is being led by SunCatch, a minority-owned business founded by Brad Boston. A fourth-generation electrical contractor with more than 20 years of experience in the solar industry, Boston is dedicated to creating opportunities for workforce development. As a part of the solar installation, he’ll be offering a training workshop for local community members who are interested in working with the solar industry. “If you’re willing to learn, work hard, and have a good work ethic, you can learn this trade and be successful,” said Boston.
And DC’s DOEE Director Tommy Wells is very pleased with this project, saying that it is yet another example of DC government working with community partners to realize Mayor Bowser’s goal of providing access to locally-generated clean energy in all eight wards of the District. “The Dupont Park Seventh Day Adventist Church has taken a leadership role in promoting community solar and I look forward to seeing others follow their lead,” he said.
Know of another building owner that might want to participate in Solar for All? Contact Groundswell at email@example.com or (202) 505-3051.
Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer, and blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler. She is also a Board Member and the Vice Chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, however, perspectives expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.