Community-Owned Resilience To Be A Gamechanger For West Atlanta Community

Atlanta, Georgia, April 30, 2024 — On April 30, Groundswell, in partnership with the Community Church Atlanta, Stryten Energy, InterUrban Solar, the City of Atlanta, the Wells Fargo Foundation, and GM, celebrated the construction launch of one of the first community-owned resilience hubs in the Southeast.

The 34.1 kW DC solar installation at the Community Resilience Hub at the Vicars Community Center at the Community Church Atlanta will utilize 320 kWh of battery storage to provide community members with a location where they can safely gather in the aftermath of an emergency or severe weather event to allow the community to recover safely and effectively. Outside of emergencies, this community resilience hub will support Community Church’s ongoing service to the community. The church provides meals to 300-400 families weekly and serves as a meeting place for local organizations.

“We want to be the place people turn to for help in our community, regardless of their faith,” said Dr. Kevin Earley, the Senior Pastor of Community Church Atlanta. “Being a resilience center expands our reach and impact possibilities.”

Groundswell works with community partners to build resilience hubs at centralized, trusted community locations where community members can access reliable power for their essential devices, continue receiving information as emergencies develop, and store medications sensitive to temperature when their neighborhoods face natural hazard impacts and emergencies. Hubs like the one at the Community Church are an essential precaution against the effects of climate change that are already being felt across the country and around the world. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Vicars Community Center project leverages Elective Pay to deliver community ownership. The project also applied for and received a low-income bonus tax credit allocation associated with Section 48e of the IRA.

“I am delighted to see the resilience hub at Vicars Community Center at the Community Church achieve this incredible milestone. This project has been years in the making, and I am proud that my team in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and Resilience has supported this community-led effort from inception,” said Chandra Farley, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Atlanta. “Multiple city departments will be learning from this project as we begin to stand up a resilience hub program at our community—serving municipal facilities. The resilience hub at Vicars will serve as a beacon of how to move our communities from energy burden to energy opportunity.”

As the developer for this community resilience hub, Groundswell worked with leaders from the Community Church to meet the greatest needs within the neighborhood while building off the groundwork laid by the Breaking Barriers project. Breaking Barriers was part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Solar Energy Innovation Network. Focused on developing a resilience hub design serving the Atlanta University Complex, the project was led by Groundswell, working alongside local partners, including Partnership for Southern Equity, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Morehouse College of Medicine, Clark Atlanta University, and Georgia Power with additional technical support from Georgia Tech.

“The Inflation Reduction Act’s ‘direct pay’ option for solar tax credits is a game-changer for community ownership,” commented Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “As a result, the Community Church of God will own this solar and energy storage project from day one, and the savings they will enjoy on their electricity bill will mean more money for the mission.”

Stryten Energy, a Georgia-based company, is designing, manufacturing, and installing the battery, allowing the resilience hub to provide three days of backup power for critical uses during power outages.

“Battery energy storage systems (BESS) store excess energy during periods of high renewable generation and release it when needed,” said Scott Childers, Vice President of Essential Power at Stryten Energy. “Integrating BESS into applications such as the microgrid at the Vicars Community Center ensures the continuous operation of critical resources for the local community during times of prolonged power outages.”

This community resilience hub will be owned by the Community Church thanks to the dedicated efforts of the church's leaders in partnership with Groundswell and funding support from GM, a donation by Stryten Energy, and the “direct pay” solar tax credit provision of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). InterUrban Solar — a Black-owned business — is leading engineering, procurement, and construction for this project alongside SunCatch Energy — a fourth-generation, Black-owned business with a track record of successful solar installations.

The Wells Fargo Foundation provides ongoing support to advance community ownership of resilience hubs like the one at the Community Church Atlanta. Wells Fargo has been a key partner in Groundswell's work designing and implementing a financial model that leverages the IRA's direct pay provision to deliver community ownership. The Community Church Resilience Hub is one of the first of many community-owned projects that will be developed as a result of their support.

Wells Fargo is proud to support this opportunity for community ownership and this community’s efforts to transition to a resilient, equitable, and sustainable future,” said Robyn Luhning, chief sustainability officer at Wells Fargo. “Resiliency is key to continue opening avenues for economic advancement and to safeguard the opportunity to build generational wealth for all communities during the transition to a lower-carbon economy.”

GM is also providing funding support for this community resilience hub.