ReThink SEED Leaders Learn How to Bring Solar into Vulnerable Communities
When ReThink Energy Florida learned it was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to find equitable new ways for vulnerable communities to adopt solar, cheers rippled throughout the organization. The SEED (Solar Energy Equity Deployment) project was moving forward in Tallahassee!
The project focuses on community conversations in low-to-moderate income (LMI) areas about solar energy and find pathways to install solar installations at a neighborhood scale. What we find out could help communities across the country.
Kim Ross, Executive Director of ReThink Energy Florida said, “Through our efforts, we hope to understand more clearly how to assist low-to-moderate income members of our community to gain access to solar energy. The ultimate goal is to create actual solar projects in the neighborhoods of Frenchtown, Griffin Heights, and Bond.”
Solar energy, which has seen dramatic market growth over the past decade, can help address climate change and provide benefits such as electricity bill reduction, job creation, and resiliency for local households, organizations, and businesses. However, most solar installations have been in more affluent communities and demographics. SEED hopes to study the reasons why and explore different financial mechanisms to expand solar access and address present and immediate needs within the community including reducing residents’ energy bills.
The Tallahassee SEED team’s innovative approach includes neighborhood members to investigate how to best reach their communities. Hiring Te’Rel Bowman as the Project Manager was the first step in creating the team that would implement SEED’s objectives. Bowman is well known in Tallahassee after attending FAMU, working for twenty years at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, and currently serving as Operations Manager for Big Bend Habitat for Humanity, Inc. “Tallahassee has long been committed to a clean and sustainable energy future and to do so, every part of our community must be engaged,” said Bowman.
He selected three dynamic SEED Community Leaders to assist him in the project.
Kimberly Murphy is the Neighborhood Leader that coordinates Griffin Heights and Frenchtown Communities. Murphy was born, raised and resides in Tallahassee, Florida. Her family has owned property within Griffin Heights for well over 60 years, and she has a strong love for her community. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering Technology and Clinical Psychology with minors in Construction Engineering Technology and Sociology. She has worked with Frenchtown CDC, DEP Bureau of Beaches and Wetland Resources, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, DOI Water Resources Division, DBPR Office of Planning and Budgeting, Florida Senate Fiscal Resource Committee and Friedman Marketing.
Talethia Edwards is a grassroots organizer, advocate, coalition builder and speaker. She is the Founder and President of the Greater Bond Neighborhood Association, and strongly believes in giving a voice to those that have yet to discover their own voice, strategizing ways to empower and educate in order to change the patterns of poverty and low achievement. Edwards is executive director of The H.A.N.D. Up Project, an anti-poverty and resource organization. She is also CEO of her own Community Development consulting firm, and believes the only way to revitalize a community is by uplifting both the people and place simultaneously. Recipient of many community awards and accolades, Talethia served as lead on a resident led planning process called the Neighborhood First plan and received a $6.4M investment from her local government and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the largest investment made in the history of Tallahassee in the community of color.
Lachanthia Hall is a Pastor at Fresh Wind Ministry, a disability advocate for families in Florida, and a Medicaid provider with over 10 years of experience. She has worked in the healthcare field for over twenty years in various roles including as a CNA, HHA, Patient Care Tech, School Health Nurse, Medicaid Provider, Lab Technician and Senior Clerk with the Leon County Health Department.
The SEED Team has begun its work with vulnerable communities through outreach events and one-on-one meetings. ReThink will provide financial, analytical, and facilitation support.
The Tallahassee SEED coallition includes ReThink Energy Florida, Inc (lead), Solar Energy Loan Fund, City of Tallahassee, Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council, Griffin Heights Neighborhood First Plan, Greater Bond Neighborhood Association, Public Private Partnership for Sustainable Community Development, and Jacobs Law Office. The current Tallahassee Neighborhood Revitalization Area Plan designates the pilot neighborhoods as bearing disproportionately high burdens of energy costs. The Solar Energy Innovation Network is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
ReThink Energy Florida’s Mission is to educate, engage, and empower Floridians to take action and achieve a just transition to clean energy for a healthier, more sustainable environment through youth education, adult engagement, and community organizing. The SEED Project is an exciting new path to expanding our understanding of how to grow solar in vulnerable communities and embodies ReThink Energy Florida’s value of energy equity for all.