Groundswell recently collaborated with the Solutions Project, a nonprofit that funds renewable energy projects that build public will and interest, to install a solar Smartflower at the LaGrange Housing Authority (LHA). A first of its kind in area, the Smartflower will produce energy that will help reduce the monthly utility bill of LHA’s administrative office. Those savings will then be earmarked to fund future, youth afterschool programming and education. 

The Smartflower project aligns with LHA’s broader mission to provide healthy and energy efficient housing solutions for its residents to improve affordability and quality of life. It will also serve as a symbol of inspiration and innovation for residents and a reminder of how LHA continues to be an advocate of positive change for its community.

Partnership on many levels was central to the success of the Smartflower project. Installation assistance was provided by both the facility staff at LHA and Jackson Services, a local heating, air and plumbing services company dedicated to community improvement. Groundswell also partnered with Jonnell Minefee, managing partner of Solar Tyme— a regional solar installation provider. Jonnell taught the youth at LHA about solar energy production and shared how, as a minority female, she has established a successful career in the solar energy field with the hope of inspiring some of the children to do the same. 

The youth at LHA were also instrumental in revitalizing the area surrounding the Smartflower. They used the information they learned to create sustainability-themed mural designs and inspirational sayings that brought the walls around the Smartflower to life. They also repainted outdoor furniture and did yard work to convert the space into an inviting patio area for residents to enjoy.

To celebrate the project completion, a community-wide ribbon cutting was held featuring guest speakers, refreshments and free shaved ice courtesy of Groundswell. The strong turnout included residents of LHA, elected officials, community leaders, local businesses, members of the community and Denise Cleveland-Leggett, the SE Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Residents old and young are enjoying the new Smartflower and marveling at how it works. Located behind the LHA main office at the Benjamin Harvey Hill campus, in its resting state the flower folds up. At sunrise, the Smartflower opens up its 12 solar panel “petals” and during the course of the day tracks the sun from east to west and folds down to a resting, or closed position, after sundown.