Mohawk Group, a global commercial flooring company with a commitment to sustainability, is partnering with Groundswell to begin installing nearly a dozen Smartflower solar systems at community centers and schools with STEM programs across the country. The innovative projects will bring a cutting-edge asset for financial savings and locally led economic opportunity to communities that need them most -- a key focus of Groundswell’s -- and they will offset the energy Mohawk used to create the company's new Living Products.
Debuting in the market just last year, Smartflowers resemble giant solar sunflowers that bloom when the sun shines. The portable, self-cleaning system represents a breakthrough in solar design and contains solar panel “petals” that are programmed to follow the sun from east to west.
To maximize the potential for the Smartflower projects to spur lasting economic opportunity in communities, Groundswell is working with local organizations to identify where the systems can be incorporated into existing training and education programs.
"Groundswell builds community power, and a critically important part of the work is connecting solar power with economic empowerment," said Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore. By installing [Smartflower solar] at each location, Mohawk is not only enabling each organization to meet its own energy needs, fueled by the future – they’re also creating a visible connection between solar power and the educational pathways each local partner offers as an avenue for economic empowerment through the growth of the solar industry.”
In South Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, Mohawk and Groundswell worked with nonprofit and fellow Citi Foundation Progress Maker Elevate Energy for the first installation in the Renaissance Collaborative’s community garden. The Renaissance Collaborative is a community development corporation that promotes self-sufficiency for members of the local community through a network of employment, housing, and educational services.
“Our partnership with Groundswell gives us an opportunity to connect innovation and technology with people, place and time,” said George Bandy Jr., vice president of sustainability and commercial marketing for Mohawk.
Elevate’s contractor development coordinator Eya Louis explained how the local community was immediately invited to become involved in the project.
"We surveyed residents right away to see if there were any established electricians or carpenters or other tradespeople who could be a part of this project," she said. "Next, we offered training in solar installation with a local company. At our unveiling, we had our solar trainees there to witness some of what went into the installation. The instructor talked to them about the permitting process and will continue to work with them."
Rami Vagal, a sustainability coordinator at Mohawk Vagal, said Mohawk will install 10 Smartflowers in the next two years, at an estimated energy savings of approximately 3.3 kilowatt-hours – enough to power 300 average-sized American homes for a year. Up next, Mohawk is looking at Eden, N.C., where one of its manufacturing facilities is based.
Courtesy photos provided by Elevate Energy