Courtesy Kirsten Rumsey/GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic

A family in the Penn North neighborhood today became the 100th low-income household in the mid-Atlantic region to convert its power supply to solar energy in partnership with a unique Washington D.C.-based nonprofit.

GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic has been installing solar electrical systems for low-income families around D.C., Northern Virginia and Baltimore for two years now. Its mission fuses economic development in underserved areas with reducing consumer reliance on non-renewable energy sources.

The nonprofit has taken a special interest in Baltimore, launching three separate solar installation projects that have reached 31 homes since January 2015. For its most recent initiative, the group partnered up with Morgan State University, the U.S. Department of Energy and CivicWorks.

With the university’s help, the nonprofit was able to identify 17 homes around the city that could benefit from having solar power. The City would then step in, sending workers to weatherize the homes’ roofs, according to GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic executive director Nicole Steele. Afterward, GRID Alternatives volunteers would go to each house and install solar panels on the roof, drastically changing their source of electricity in an economical and eco-friendly way.

“Baltimore is a great city to be working in,” Steele said today. “People are really, really interested in this space and see opportunity through community wealth-building.”

Courtesy Kirsten Rumsey/GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic

Today, Vivian Barksdale’s home on N. Carey Street became the 100th low-income household that GRID Alternatives has assisted across Virginia, Maryland and D.C. Between her house and 99 others, the group says it has produced 305 kilowatts of electricity generation potential. That translates to more than $1.6 million in energy cost savings and more than 8,400 tons of greenhouse gas emissions prevented from being released into the air, according to the group.

“That’s wealth-building,” Steele said. “We’re putting that $1.6 million back into the communities that we’re working with.”

As Fishbowl has reported before, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic has also provided an economic boost to Baltimore by training hundreds of residents to become solar installers. While they work as volunteers for the organization, that training equips them to join a fast-growing solar industry with demand for trained workers.

So far, GRID Mid-Atlantic has trained 480 volunteers. More than half – around 270, to be exact – have come from Baltimore, according to Steele.

Between the assistance to families and the job training, Steele said Charm City has been an ideal place for her organization to plug in. “The homeowners and our partners are very receptive and interested in the idea of the new solar economy, and the creation of good, paying jobs that cannot be exported,” she said.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...