From Solarize Asheville-Buncombe:
A coalition of local organizations is launching Solarize Asheville-Buncombe, a community-based group-purchasing solar campaign that makes solar energy and battery storage more affordable to participants. A virtual launch event on Wednesday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. will feature Vice-Mayor Sheneika Smith, Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman, and Solarize Asheville-Buncombe Steering Committee members.
Both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County have adopted a community-wide goal to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2042. The Solarize coalition – consisting of partners such as Green Built Alliance, Sierra Club WENOCA, Green Opportunities, and Hood Huggers International – will help residents and businesses along that path by reducing barriers and costs to solar energy and lowering the carbon footprint of our community.
Solarize Asheville-Buncombe is open to all property owners in Buncombe County, and follows a campaign model that has been successful in more than 300 other communities in the U.S. Based on a tiered “bulk” purchasing platform, the more local residents and business owners that contract for their solar installations through the campaign, the greater the savings are for all. However, Solarize Asheville-Buncombe is nationally-unique in its focus on equitable workforce development in the green energy industry and affordability initiatives.
The Solarize committee included a goal of fostering local workforce development in the campaign’s contract for interested solar installers. In the process, Solarize-Asheville Buncombe has established a partnership with Green Opportunities (GO), an Asheville-based nonprofit committed to empowering marginalized communities toward sustainable employment. This collaboration aims to create long-lasting pathways to clean energy jobs in Buncombe County.
“GO is honored and excited to be a part of this initiative,” said Ben Williamson, executive director (interim) of Green Opportunities. “Green sector jobs are on the rise, and many positions in this sector are accessible to those with traditional obstacles to employment. We have already begun researching training programs for these jobs, including hosting some training at AB-Tech, and look forward to launching soon. We also know climate change disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color and that increasing access to clean, renewable energy is a step in the right direction in that fight.”
Going solar can decrease energy and economic burdens for all participants and, in particular, for low- and moderate-income community members, of which communities of color make up a disproportionate share. Another priority for the Solarize committee is to create deeper cost reductions for solar energy for low and moderate income community members via fundraising and financing. The campaign is fundraising and securing grant and foundation funding to increase accessibility and affordability of solar, and also utilizing census tract data and the City of Asheville’s energy burden map to prioritize outreach.
Already, more than 70 individuals have signed up for a free solar evaluation at their properties since the campaign began accepting advance registrations. Interested residents and businesses may go to www.solarizeabc.com now to learn more, receive advance information on campaign details, register for the April 7 virtual launch event, and sign up for a free evaluation. Descriptions of tiered pricing and equipment options will be forthcoming as well as details about valuable energy tax credits that can be applied in 2021.