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Breaking Barriers to Resilience in the AUCC

Groundswell is developing two or more resilience centers in West Atlanta in collaboration with Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE), Spelman College, Morehouse College, Morehouse College of Medicine, and Clark-Atlanta University. The larger resilience center will serve the HBCU campus community, called the Atlanta University Center. The second resilience center will be located in the energy-burdened low-income residential neighborhood just west of the AUC, and will serve critical energy needs for residents during potential outages. 

The Breaking Barriers project is designed to both demonstrate energy innovation and improve electricity resilience at four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in West Atlanta. Supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Breaking Barriers, led by Groundswell, worked with its partners to design an innovative urban energy resilience hub integrating microgrid technology, solar generation, and energy storage. For the community, several candidate community facilities are being evaluated to host a solar + storage project that would provide at least 8 hours of critical services for low-income residents. These hubs will help Atlanta HBCUs and the energy-burdened broader community become resilient, and will also inform new course curricula at Atlanta University Center campuses, and inspire similar efforts at other HBCUs throughout the Southeast.

Breaking Barriers partners hosted six virtual community meetings and received community buy-in from West Atlanta residents who had never seen a solar panel or heard of a resiliency center prior to the meetings. To highlight this support and maintain critical community connections, the chair of Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Unit T joined Breaking Barriers’ monthly meetings as a community representative. Additionally, the Atlanta Mayor’s office, the City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability, and a local Congressional Representative agreed to formally support the project.

Georgia Power Corporation engaged with Breaking Barriers partner organizations during development to help design the systems and to learn more about microgrids and solar from NREL, and to support the HBCU community with innovation. Georgia Power Corporation is moving the utility forward, despite a low-cost electricity market, and no regulatory or legislative requirements to generate solar or community solar.

Breaking Barriers received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This partnership was announced in April 2020 and represents one of just eight project teams chosen to join the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN). NREL pursues fundamental research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to transform the way we use energy. NREL leads the SEIN program with funding from the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. 

Click here to read a report summarizing Breaking Barriers’ findings.

Read more about Breaking Barriers here