Baltimore, MD, October 20, 2023 — On October 20, Groundswell, in partnership with the City of Refuge in Baltimore, the Maryland Energy Administration, the City of Baltimore Office of Sustainability, and SunCatch Energy celebrated the first resilience hub in Maryland that will allow a nonprofit to receive direct benefits of a solar + storage project — and pass those benefits on to the community they serve.
The 110 kW solar installation for the Baltimore City Community Resiliency Hub at the City of Refuge will utilize 372 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.
“The idea of solar energy and the fact that we'll have ownership of the system is critical because every bit of that solar energy is saving dollars that we would otherwise pay,” said Pastor Billy Humphrey, the Executive Director of the City of Refuge in Baltimore. “Not only are we increasing the capacity of our operational budget to continue to do good work and expand the work. We're also contributing to the larger environment.”
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 to receive information as emergency situations develop, and store medications sensitive to temperature when their neighborhoods face natural hazard impacts and emergency situations.
“Baltimore is vulnerable to many climate hazards that can create additional obstacles for already burdened communities,” said Aubrey Germ, Climate and Resilience Planner for the City of Baltimore Office of Sustainability. “Connecting incredible community partners like City of Refuge to capacity-building resources like solar + storage is critical for building resilience in Brooklyn and other high-risk neighborhoods across the city. This project will provide cost savings and continuity of operations for City of Refuge in support of their mission to provide essential resources for vulnerable residents when they need them most.”
While hubs like the one at the City of Refuge 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 introduction of the direct pay provision in the IRA, these installations will support nonprofits in their ongoing work, allowing them to serve more people.
“The new direct pay option means that City of Refuge will own that project themselves, the full value of the solar tax credit will be paid directly to them,” said Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “And the resulting long-term electricity bill savings means City of Refuge will have more money for the mission to support the health, food, housing, and job-training programs they deliver to their neighbors in Baltimore.”
"Resiliency Hubs provide a lifeline of reliable electrical energy during the first few hours and days of an electrical grid outage, allowing first responders to focus on restoration of critical infrastructure,” said David Comis, Energy Program Manager at the Maryland Energy Administration. “Providing critical refrigeration of temperature sensitive medication, energy to recharge cell phones, lighting, heating and cooling, hubs help maintain the health and safety of neighborhood residents. Resiliency hubs are targeted for neighborhoods where residents are unlikely to have sufficient free capital to install alternative or backup energy sources on their own."
This Community Resiliency Hub was funded through a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration, and Rochdale Capital provided additional financing.
“As a designated Resiliency Hub, City of Refuge plays a vital role in providing community members an option for power and temporary relief in the event of a natural disaster or emergency,” said Kladé Hare Nersasian, Chief Loan Officer at Rochdale Capital. “Rochdale Capital is proud to support the organization in its efforts to install solar panels at its headquarters, via a direct ownership model, as well as construct a new roof and add battery storage.”
“We aim to support organizations that are working to improve resilience in under-resourced communities and align with the evolving needs of the renewable energy landscape,” said Adaora Ifebigh, Senior Director of Impact at Sol Systems. “Together, we are ensuring that frontline communities have the resources they need to respond and recover from extreme weather events and energy disruptions.”
Sol Systems provided funding support for the project.
“We’re working to get solar in every community in this country,” said Brad Boston, President of SunCatch Energy, a fourth-generation, Black-owned business with a track record of successful solar installations in the District and Maryland which oversaw the engineering, procurement, and construction for this project. “It is a pleasure to be back out here with another solar project in a community that doesn’t have many solar projects.”
The Wells Fargo Foundation has supported Groundswell's work to design and implement a financial model that leverages the IRA's direct pay provision to deliver community ownership. The City of Refuge Resiliency Hub is the first of many community-owned projects that will be developed as a result of their support.
“Wells Fargo is committed to building a more equitable and sustainable future in local communities and excited to see Baltimore leading the way on this new resiliency hub for the Southside,” said Otis Rolley, president of the Wells Fargo Foundation. “With our funding, Groundswell is able put its new financial model into action with the City of Refuge to help inspire other communities around the country to adopt clean energy.”
About Groundswell: Groundswell is a 501c3 nonprofit that builds community power through equitable community solar projects and resilience centers, clean energy programs that reduce energy burdens, and pioneering research initiatives that help light the way to clean energy futures for all. Groundswell leads clean energy programs and projects in five states, including the District of Columbia, providing low and moderate-income households more than $5.5 million in clean energy savings to date. Learn more at Groundswell.org or @grndswell.
About City of Refuge: City of Refuge is a faith-based organization, a registered 501(c)3, that helps individuals and families transition out of crisis. For 20 years, City of Refuge has been committed to developing programs centered on intentional assistance and meaningful relationships that are accessible to all people in the Baltimore area, no matter the stage of life or their background. To learn more, visit CityofRefugeBaltimore.org.
About Rochdale Capital: Rochdale Capital is a newly formed, non-profit community development loan fund based in Arlington, Va., whose mission is to promote cooperative and community ownership; advance equity, diversity, and inclusion; and provide capital access in Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Indigenous under-resourced communities. Since September 2022, the organization has closed $3.1 million in loans to support small businesses and cooperatives, affordable housing, access to healthy foods, and renewable energy development across seven states. To learn more, go to www.rochdalecapital.org.
About Wells Fargo Foundation: Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets. We proudly serve one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and we are a leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. Wells Fargo provides a diversified set of banking, investment, and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 47 on Fortune’s 2023 rankings of America’s largest companies. In the communities we serve, the Company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy.