Putting power back in the hands of Northside residents

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An August 9 article published in the MSR titled “United Nations issues ‘Code Red’ for humanity in climate crisis,” said, “United Nations panel on the climate released a scathing report on Monday, August 9, about a manufactured atmospheric crisis that has jeopardized the world’s future. Immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions must occur, the panel wrote…human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.”

We need swift climate action, and that action has to heal and repair the systems that got us here: systemic racism, extractive capitalism, corporate greed, and disconnection from the systems that sustain us. We need local, equitable climate solutions on the Northside of Minneapolis and all over the city that centers community members, especially those most affected by our inequitable society.

There is a local equitable solution right here in North Minneapolis. Did you know there is a community solar garden on the roof of North High School?

Did you know it was developed by the only Black solar developer in Minnesota and North High alumni Jamez Staples, president and CEO of Renewable Energy Partners (REP)?

Did you know it was installed by an almost all BIPOC crew of solar installers, led by JT Thomas of S3 Solar Service Solutions?

Did you know you can subscribe to the community solar garden whether you rent or own your own home and get a credit on your Xcel bill with no money needed upfront in our pay-as-you-go option, and no barrier of a minimum credit score or income requirement?

Minneapolis Climate Action (MCA), a grassroots local nonprofit focused on equitable climate solutions, partners with REP on outreach and engagement with community members about the opportunity to save money while using renewable energy and being part of a local solution to our climate crisis.

MCA and REP are looking for additional rooftop sites for community solar gardens that can bring benefits to the building owners and residents, while increasing opportunities for good-paying renewable energy jobs on the Northside.

This means we need skilled workers in these good-paying jobs in the renewable energy sector. Renewable Energy Partners, in partnership with Northgate Development, has opened a Regional Apprenticeship Training Center (RATC), an energy skills and innovation center on the corner of Plymouth and Penn in North Minneapolis.

RATC is a place for local students and adults to prepare for careers in construction, energy, and sustainability technologies. This project included a 30kW Battery system, which was co-created with the University of Minnesota and is the first such project of its kind in the western hemisphere.

 More training opportunities are being added in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and building science, energy storage and grid technology, and electric transportation. This is a game-changer for providing training on the Northside.

Jamez Staples is seeing his dedication to climate justice and the Northside come to fruition. “I came to this work because I wanted to participate in the global transition to clean energy while also creating economic opportunity for people who have traditionally been left behind. It was sometimes a challenge, but I got up to the top of the hill, and now I’m trying to bring everyone with me,” he said.

The REP and MCA partnership is also creating a community solar garden expansion model to partner with neighborhood organizations to create renewable energy projects in all Minneapolis neighborhoods, while providing electric bill credits for residents and income for neighborhood organizations.

How does a community solar garden work?

The solar panels are installed on the roof of North High School. Once the garden goes live the energy flows into the grid and is measured. You get a credit on your bill each month according to how much energy the array produces from the sun and how many subscriptions you have.

You can pay for subscriptions upfront, or you can pay as you go.

It’s a win-win for your pocketbook and the planet. We are prioritizing Northside families for this garden and are setting 80% of the subscriptions for community members with low incomes. We believe everyone should have access to renewable energy and bill credits, not just the wealthy.

Find more information and get on our sign-up list for the rden at www.mplsclimate.org/community-solar.

Kyle Samejima is the executive director of Minneapolis Climate Action.

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