What does Community-Based Solar Look Like?
October 25, 2022
*What does an inclusive clean energy economy look like and how does the clean power, financial savings, and job creation provided by solar energy benefit our underserved communities?* To find out, my colleague Caroline and I recently visited a community-based solar project financed by our portfolio partner Sunwealth, a clean energy investment firm based in Boston, MA. We were also joined by Resonant Energy, the solar installation project developer whose mission is to use solar projects to build wealth in under-invested communities.
The community-based solar project we visited is on the site of Epiphany School in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. Epiphany School is a full service, tuition-free independent school for children of economically disadvantaged families in Boston and has been working to break the cycle of urban poverty through education for over 20 years. They offer comprehensive support for their students and families, from early childhood development to middle school. Barbara Fletcher, Assistant Business Manager at Epiphany School, gave us a tour of their Early Learning Center (ELC) facilities and explained how each space is used to nurture and foster the growth of children under one year through Pre-K. In addition to early childhood and middle-school classes, Epiphany School has also implemented a Graduate Support Program to partner with students and families through their high-school and college journeys, and into employment. The school offers basic services such as laundry facilities, healthcare, and food services. It was amazing to see how an organization could provide so much support for its community and families.
After touring the ELC spaces, we made our way to the roof, which is home to several solar arrays. The arrays build a sense of community for the members and families of Epiphany School, as they feel more engaged in environmental issues. Epiphany School installed the arrays for the good of the environment and community. By leasing the solar arrays from Sunwealth, Epiphany School is able to generate solar power without holding the responsibility of maintaining the arrays, allowing them to continue to allocate their resources to support families and the students’ education. The solar installation also provides approximately $1,500 per year in energy savings, or about $59,000 over the life of the system. The site visit was a great example of how our portfolio partners have an impact across multiple sectors. While Sunwealth is primarily focused on renewable energy and environmental sustainability, their work reaches organizations like Epiphany School, which is centered around education and community development. Sunwealth’s model makes solar power more accessible to communities across the US and contributes to the creation of a more resilient, secure, and equitable energy future.
Our loan to Sunwealth has supported 18 solar projects, including the project at Epiphany School, in communities that are underserved by traditional renewable energy financing. The community-based solar projects will generate enough electricity to power over 300 homes annually and will provide $3.8 million in lifetime energy savings to Sunwealth’s solar customers. We look forward to growing our relationship with Sunwealth and continuing to expand access to renewable energy.