How does solar power improve underserved communities?
Los Angeles, like so many cities across the globe, has been increasingly investing in solar power. In fact, it ranked #1 in total installed power of all major American cities according to a report by the Environment California Research & Policy Center. But is everyone benefiting from the solar revolution?
Community Renewable Energy believes that solar installations in underserved, marginalized urban communities contributes to both social and environmental justice and advances our nation’s nascent energy democracy. As the Center for Social Inclusion explains, “[p]olicies, capacity-building, and engagement around green energy solutions must support diverse communities to ensure meaningful innovation so that these solutions can be scaled for more impact.”
Solar power also spurs community development.
The ideal locations for installations are vacant land and brownfields, which are polluted, sometimes hazardous tracts often considered undevelopable. Cleaning up and revitalizing formerly dangerous eyesores creates room for solar panels and frees up valuable public space. Some neighborhoods might cultivate a community garden, some might prefer public art, and others might need a communal meeting space. The beauty of the concept is that each installation will reflect the unique personality and needs of each community.
This replicable, scalable model relies on cooperation and collaboration among community members, community organizations, local and national nonprofits, for-profit organizations, and funders who support renewable energy and community development opportunities. This means that neighbors and community organizers are able to craft the project they envision with support from national backers.
Like all Community Renewable Energy efforts, urban solar supports the triple bottom line by enhancing:
- Community development. Local nonprofits and organizers are strengthened, while neighborhoods gain safe, beautiful, communal space.
- Environmental stewardship. Solar panels are clean, quiet, and unobtrusive. They also reduce pollution, the use of fossil fuel-derived energy, and shrink a community’s carbon footprint.
- Economic development. Job training provides a gateway to the growing sector of green careers, renewables produce budget-saving energy, and solar installations offer a solid return on investment.