Groundswell, Partnership for Southern Equity, and Spelman College to Lead Initiative

(Washington, DC) April 14, 2020 – Groundswell announced today that the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has selected its pioneering resilience hub project serving the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC) to participate in a collaborative research effort to develop novel applications of solar energy and other distributed energy resources (DERs) in unique locations and contexts. This partnership makes up one of just eight teams selected to join the program, which is known as the Solar Energy Innovation Network.

Led in close partnership with the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) and Spelman College, the design of the resilience hub will be community-driven so that it meets the needs of both Atlanta’s Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), located within the Atlanta University Center, and neighborhood residents. The AUCC and surrounding neighborhoods are some of the most energy burdened in the state of Georgia – which means residents pay higher electricity bills based on their incomes – and this project is envisioned to show what energy equity can look like. 

The resilience hub design will integrate solar generation, energy storage, and a microgrid. In addition to providing solar power to the AUCC, the resilience hub is also envisioned to provide backup power and other services to meet the needs of the surrounding community. Groundswell, PSE, and Spelman College will engage local HBCU students in the design of the system, and work with local residents will directly inform its development. 

The announcement of this project comes at an important time, as Georgia Power is designing an 80 MW energy storage pilot, as required by the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) adopted last year by the Georgia Public Service Commission. This intersection creates an important opportunity for the resilience hub project to create a scalable model for working in partnership with utilities. 

“We selected teams that are experimenting with creative, promising ideas to use solar power in rural communities or in commercial-scale applications,” said Eric Lockhart, who leads the Innovation Network at NREL. “The work of these teams will provide a blueprint for other communities pursuing novel applications of solar energy.”

“There’s no one-size-fits-all plan for clean energy access in America. Groundswell believes that every community should have the power to determine its own energy future,” said Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “We look forward to working with Partnership for Southern Equity and Spelman College in service to the AUCC community and its energy future.”

“Advancing towards a more equitable and just clean energy future requires that everyone – regardless of income, race, or zip code – is included in developing the community benefits that can follow. We look forward to leading engagement with the communities surrounding the AUCC and demonstrating equity in action with this project,” said Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer at Partnership for Southern Equity. 

“We are excited to partner with Groundswell and Partnership for Southern Equity as all of our Atlanta University Center institutions are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and supporting the community that surrounds our colleges,” said Arthur E, Frazier III, AIA, Director, Facilities Management & Services, Spelman College.

With the Innovation Network’s support, Groundswell, PSE, and Spelman College will demonstrate a new model for solar implementation that is designed to scale in collaboration with utilities and in service to local communities. 

NREL is leading the Solar Energy Innovation Network with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. NREL pursues fundamental research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to transform the way we use energy.

About Groundswell 

Groundswell builds community power. A 501c3 nonprofit founded in the District of Columbia in 2009, Groundswell develops and manages community solar projects and programs that connect clean power with economic empowerment. Groundswell currently serves six states including Georgia and delivers community solar and energy savings to more than 2,000 households.

About Partnership for Southern Equity 

The Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that advances policies and institutional actions that promote racial equity and shared prosperity for all

in the growth of metropolitan Atlanta and the American South through an ecosystem-based

model for multi-demographic engagement.

About Spelman College

Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a global leader in the education of women of African descent. Today our student body comprises more than 2,100 students from 43 states and 10 foreign countries. Spelman empowers women to engage the many cultures of the world and inspires a commitment to positive social change through service. We are dedicated to academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and the intellectual, creative, ethical and leadership development of our students.

About Atlanta University Center Consortium

The Atlanta University Center Consortium is the world’s oldest and largest association of historically Black colleges and universities. Comprised of four member institutions – Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College, the Consortium is a vibrant intellectual community with a long tradition of scholarship, service and community engagement.