SupplementsSustainability

Using the Power of Solar to Build Communities

When my two partners, President Nick Giannotti, and COO Nicole Marandino and I founded New Columbia Solar (NCS) just over three years ago, we had a vision of locals helping locals. Our mission – to make it as easy as humanly possible for D.C. residents and businesses to benefit from solar energy. We became pioneers in how solar is financed for low-income residents through a unique community-focused business model.

Today NCS helps businesses, property owners, schools, non-profits, and District residents significantly reduce energy costs and enhance sustainability through the implementation of solar power. We also have embarked on a public service campaign to educate and inform students and organizations about the impact of climate change and the use of renewable energy.

New Columbia Solar was a key stakeholder in the development and passage of The Clean Energy DC Act which will require DC to transition to 100% clean electricity by 2032. The legislation, first introduced by Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh and passed with help from Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, is the result of months of collaboration across environmental groups, renewable and fossil energy companies, local businesses, and others.

The Clean Energy DC Act amplifies the initiatives and policies of the last 10 years including the DC Department of Energy and Environment’ s Solar for All program. The expanded use of renewable energy, particularly solar, will stem the impact of climate change on our city and will have numerous benefits for our communities.

Because of the District’s commitment to solar energy, the industry has already produced over 1,530 District-based solar job. Over $200 million of private capital has been invested into solar projects in the city since 2016 alone. According to the Solar Foundation’s 2018 Solar Jobs Census, solar industry jobs are expected to grow by at least 7% this year and solar installations have increased dramatically over the last two years. More than 68 Megawatts of local generating capacity has been installed here in our District. As a result, local companies like NCS are growing. NCS started with three employees in 2016 and has grown to 40 employees spanning across all eight Wards.

Renewable energy will aid our city’s ongoing struggle to maintain affordable housing by directly reducing the energy burden for our most vulnerable residents. We strengthen our communities by expanding access to renewable energy and increasing job and educational opportunities.

Recently, New Columbia Solar completed our eleventh Ward 8 solar project at Altamont Condominiums. The residents received a new roof completely paid for by New Columbia Solar as part of the solar installation. They will also benefit directly from the electricity the solar panels deliver for the next twenty years. Additionally, NCS’s Ward 5 solar project at Celestial Church of Christ was installed at no cost to the church and now powers 29 homes in the community. This is a premier example of how electricity generated from local solar systems is directly benefiting District residents.

As a pending partner to the 2019 Solar for All Program operated by the DCSEU, NCS will help the DCSEU’s efforts to benefit up to 6,800 income-qualified DC households in total. “Solar for All” supports the District’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Expansion Amendment Act of 2016, which aims to reduce the energy bills of more than 100,000 low-income households by more than 50% by 2032. It’s an ambitious plan calling for solar energy to directly benefit families across our community in a very real and positive way.

Perhaps most importantly, the progress our city is witnessing serves as a real-world demonstration that the policy mechanisms that have been in place for the past decade are working. Our District is becoming powered by renewable energy and this transition is taking place without increasing retail electricity rates for consumers. In fact, the District’s retail electricity price has consistently remained below the national average price with a 7% lower average price in 2017.

DC is doing urban renewables like no other city in the world. Through local renewable energy management and production, we not only have the potential but the obligation, to serve as a role model for other cities across the U.S. and the world.

Michael Healy
CEO
New Columbia Solar

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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