Nonprofit Spotlight: Groundswell

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In June, PennyLoafer donors collectively gave to Groundswell!

The Rundown

  • Years founded: 2009

  • Leadership: CEO, Michelle Moore, is a social entrepreneur and former chief sustainability officer under the Obama Administration. With 20+ years in the sustainability space, she’s helped lead the global green building movement and launched the GreenGov initiative to improve energy use in government agencies.

  • Issue they address: access to renewable energy for all.

  • What they do: build equitable community solar projects that share power, savings, and economic opportunity among households, regardless of income level.

  • How they do it:

    • Community solar projects: provide clean, locally generated solar energy to communities. Their SharePower™ program enables households to buy into a community solar project and share savings with low income neighbors.

    • Resiliency Hubs: centralized, trusted community locales where residents can access reliable power (from solar + energy storage on a microgrid) for essential devices in an emergency / when the power goes out.

    • SOUL™ (Save On Utilities Long term): work with low and moderate income households, who pay higher than average utility bills, to increase energy efficiency of home/appliances and reduce bills.

    • Research and Development: driving innovation and policy change to build an equitable clean energy future.

Why they were chosen

Groundswell is building community power and making access to clean energy more equitable for all. Their people-centered, localized approach ensures they’re building meaningful relationships with communities as they build solar projects that make clean energy more affordable and accessible, particularly for low and moderate income households.

  • They’ve built a replicable, scalable clean power sharing model, and partner with local organizations to develop, build, and manage solar projects.
  • They serve more than 5K households across 6 states, saving them ~$500 per year on energy bills (over $1.85M in annual clean energy savings 👀).

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☀️ Solar energy is booming! In April of this year, the U.S. hit a record when, for the first time, it generated 20% of its electricity from solar and wind. Federal polices like the Solar Investment Tax Credit, declining costs and increase demand from the private and public sectors all contribute to this growth.

⛔ But barriers remain in making solar more widely available:

  • $$: the average cost of installing solar panels on a US home is about $20K.
  • Structural limitations: not enough sunlight, roof space, or older buildings.
  • Renters vs. owners: renters typically miss out as the majority of owners pass the utility bill to their renters, and they have little incentive to invest in the property.

⚡ A solution: community solar projects enable households to share power from a centralized solar array. Participating households purchase a subscription to the solar energy, removing the hurdle of installation and making it accessible to both renters and owners.

  • Community solar has grown in popularity, nearly quadrupling in capacity since 2016, but the majority of projects don’t include subscribers from low income households.

💸 And low income households are paying the most for electricity. The poorest 20% of Americans pay 10% or more of their total household income on electricity. They’re also more likely to live in older housing with poor ventilation, inefficient appliances and outdated heating and cooling systems.

If you enjoyed this and want to get involved, you can support the Climate Change cause on PennyLoafer, starting with as little as $5/month. Each month, you’ll support and learn about a different nonprofit fighting the climate crisis.