Community Solar needs to be about community, first and foremost. It’s finally a way to combine the urgent need for clean energy solutions with the now more urgent need to build cohesive communities. Organizing around a community solar project gives community organizations the tools and resources they need to reach out to their constituencies. Once built, a community solar project provides common ground to stand on as we all monitor our solar production and the status of the project. One innovation that Neighborhood Sun is bringing to the table to emphasize the community nature of the enterprise is the creation of a “community benefit fund.” This will be a fund created by members of a solar project and Neighborhood Sun, and its use will be decided democratically by the community, but within the confines of community building, empowerment, reduced pricing for low income projects, and a greener future. We discussed this powerful tool at our annual community stakeholder meeting, stay tuned for more details on that (and subscribe to our newsletter here).
While it’s pretty clear that nothing good will come out of the Federal Government for a while, and in fact we’ll have to defend gains we’ve made, we can and must create positive facts on the ground at the local level. This will eventually bubble back up to DC and get us back on track. But in the meantime, it will work to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create local jobs, support local communities and the local economy.
I remember when I was lobbying for the Clean Cars Bill in Annapolis a few years back, we were opposed by the car dealers association. They had car dealerships in every legislative district so they were able to talk to both Democrat and Republican officials no matter what district they represented. We need that in community solar. We need to be everywhere in the state, and demonstrate the many local benefits (click to tweet). Then we need to be a larger presence in other states where solar has not had such a strong voice and create new facts on the ground there through actual solar projects getting built.
Sometimes when things appear to be falling apart, they are actually falling into place. While we cannot undo the election (though we can resist and remain engaged), we can start the rebuilding process by focusing on community first and starting right where we live. Neighborhood Sun looks forward to being part of that process with all of you.