Solar Power: Blue Horizons Project Builds on Solarize Campaign with Low-Income Equity Efforts
By Summer Winkler
Blue Horizons Project is building on the success of its Solarize campaign last year with an enhanced commitment and broader investment in no-cost solar for low-income families through its Neighbor to Neighbor Solar program.
With plans to put 12 systems on local homes in the next year, Blue Horizons Project has selected Sugar Hollow Solar as its partner on the installations.
Sugar Hollow Solar Chief Operating Officer Clary Franko is thrilled to partner with the nonprofit Green Built Alliance and its Blue Horizons Project program on this effort.
“At Sugar Hollow Solar, we’re big fans of Blue Horizons Project and their commitment to a clean energy future that benefits all,” she said. “We’re so glad to be able to assist in giving solar to low-income families right here in Buncombe County.”
To qualify for Neighbor to Neighbor, families must make below 100 percent of Buncombe County’s area median income (AMI).
Neighbor to Neighbor participants are also eligible for services from partner program Energy Savers Network, also a program of Green Built Alliance. Energy Savers Network provides free energy-efficiency and weatherization upgrades to qualifying households. Both programs strive to ease the energy burden on community members that are typically more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Funding for the Neighbor to Neighbor Solar campaign is provided by Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, and generous donations from individuals. The goal is to do around 16 installations over the next two years.
Blue Horizons Project Manager Jamie Wine expressed his thanks to our generous funders and donors who support the mission to achieve a clean-energy future in an equitable way.
“Our continued success comes from our community partnerships and support from companies and individuals that believe, as we do, that no one should have to choose between energy and prescriptions, or clothes, or food,” he said. “Together, with your help, we can end energy poverty in Buncombe County.”
Solarize Asheville-Buncombe County launched in 2021 between community members and mission-aligned organizations in order to provide affordable solar installations within the community.
The campaign goals were 500 sign-ups and 100 contracts for solar energy systems, and those numbers were easily exceeded.
Of 21 communities participating in Solarize campaigns, Solarize Asheville-Buncombe had the most solar installations with 182 contracts signed.
The final piece remaining in the Solarize campaign involves the donation of a solar energy system to be installed on a local nonprofit. After a committee-based selection process, involving members of the community and the Solarize project team, BeLoved Asheville was chosen as the recipient. The nonprofit’s commitment to meeting community needs and environmental and financial sustainability makes it a perfect fit for this program.
The two organizations’ work might seem different on the surface. Blue Horizons Project is about making a clean-energy future a reality in Buncombe County and preserving our skies and waters for generations to come. BeLoved is about building a community focused on equity where impacted people can resource one another and create solutions together.
However, it couldn’t be a better match.
The climate crisis is the biggest humanitarian issue of our time and affects BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and low-income individuals the most. Applying a climate solution to BeLoved’s operations helps amplify both organizations’ work, resolving the climate crisis and creating racial and economic equity, improving the lives of people that need it most.
BeLoved’s vision for their space is inspiring. What is now an empty warehouse of an old transmission shop will soon become a community hub powered by solar. There will be gardens, educational and community space, a thrift store, space to recycle building materials to keep them out of the waste stream, space for coordinated action for equity, office space, and resources for their street medics, food access projects, community leadership network, and more.
BeLoved Co-Director Amy Cantrell is excited about the message that receiving this installation will send to the community. BeLoved lives in the “eye of the storm” providing for those in need and helping us to remember the humanity in all people.
“We are bringing human energy and we’re bringing solar energy, and we’re bringing plant energy into this hub,” Cantrell said. “It will be a place where we can turn this energy into innovative solutions to tackle all the challenges that we face; a place where we can inspire one another to act in concert and in community, to really change things for the better.”
From a practical standpoint, this community-funded solar installation will allow BeLoved to put resources saved on their energy bills directly into their critical work in the community. The match creates a long-term, positive ripple effect for years to come in a classic full circle moment.
“If we can pay less for electricity, we will have more funds to continue the projects we are working on and care for the planet at the same time,” BeLoved Co-Director Ponkho Bermejo said.
Summer Winkler serves as Blue Horizons Project coordinator. Prior to joining staff, she worked as an intern with Green Built Alliance while receiving a Graduate Certificate of Sustainability from Virginia Tech. Connect with Summer at email@example.com.
Those interested in donating to support the Blue Horizons Project’s Neighbor to Neighbor Solar efforts can visit greenbuilt.org/donate, mail a check to Green Built Alliance at PO Box 2594, Asheville NC 28802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
You can also view this article as it was originally published on page 38 of the 2022-23 edition of the directory.