A former nuclear plant worker and current pastor is working to bring solar energy to the low- and middle-income residents of D.C. and Baltimore.
Working as the director of community engagement for the nonprofit organization Groundswell, Danté King seeks to solar energy to all through the organization’s “community solar” program, a concept that delivers solar energy to those who may not even own a rooftop.
It works like this: a community solar project is built in a neighborhood, on the grounds of a church, apartment building or other local site; average residents subscribe to receive energy from the local community solar project and local utility companies deliver the clean energy to subscribers in the neighborhood.
“Our mission is to give those who have been overlooked and disenfranchised the opportunity to get clean energy,” King said.
In 2016, the organization launched the Equitable Community Solar Program to bring affordable clean energy to residents who often do not qualify for other clean energy home due to financial reasons or lack of homeownership.
The nonprofit currently has two new projects. One church in the District will use a lot it owns to house solar panels in a project King says is likely to support 120 subscribers.
In Baltimore, another church is set to be the site of another one of Groundswell’s community solar projects likely to serve 100 subscribers, King said.
Construction of both projects are supported by grants from the Department of Energy and Environment and is likely to begin in August or September.
“[Solar energy] is not a well-known commodity or resource, especially in the African-American community,” said King, adding that subscribers benefit from potential reduction in utility bills and the organizations that house the community solar projects are paid by Groundswell to lease the spaces.
Groundswell only leases on commercial property and does not use the community solar model on residential properties, King said.
He said commercial lots much meet certain physical requirements to qualify to house a project.
In the future, King hopes to engage beyond churches and introduce the program to more small businesses and colleges in the region, especially historically black colleges and universities.
Groundswell began its work in D.C. in 2009 and now operates in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The organization offers affordable clean energy programs to working families, small businesses and community organizations to switch their homes or buildings to wind or solar power. The organization also offers incentives for the switch.
Since its inception, Groundswell has switched more 4,000 families and small businesses to clean power and contracted the sale of 225 million kilowatt hours of clean energy, production it said resulted in 155,555 metric tons of carbon pollution reduction.
“I am excited about the work that we are doing and the benefits it will have [on the community],” King said. “We also will change the narrative, and give people who have been left out a seat at the table.”