Science & Technology

Atlanta’s Community Resilience Project is a model for energy equity

Home to the suburbs of Bankhead, the 30314 zip code in western Atlanta is one of the city’s most energy-intensive zip codes.Residents pay five times more electricity and gas than their neighbors in Buckhead, northern Atlanta, even though their average annual income is one-fifth. 2021 Report by South East Energy Efficiency Alliance..

The ZIP Code also includes the Atlanta University Center (AUC), the world’s oldest and largest association of historically black colleges, including Spellman College, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Clark Atlanta University. Morehouse College is the future location of the first campus resilience center of its kind, supported by photovoltaic microgrids. In the event of a grid-scale power outage, resilience centers are designed to operate on battery-powered solar power, providing students and local residents with essential resources.

Groundswell, a non-profit organization focused on building energy resilience for the community, launched the project in late 2019 in collaboration with Atlanta-based non-profit organizations AUC and Partnership for Southern Equity. .. This non-profit promotes racial equality and shares prosperity through policy and institutional action. This initiative, formally called Breaking Barriers, also includes the development of another independent community resilience center located in the western Atlanta community. This center is also powered by solar power and backed up by battery storage.

As a participating team in the National Institute of Renewable Energy (NREL) Solar Energy Innovation Network, Breaking Barriers partners receive technical support from the US Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Institute, NREL, to promote stakeholder involvement. bottom. Georgia Power is also supporting the development of the project.

People and organizations tend to think about resilience within the four walls … how can they attract neighbors, understand their needs and priorities, and do this together?

The project developer said the design and business plan for the resilience center and the PV microgrid was completed in September and is raising funds for construction. Project developers aim to raise money from innovative sources of tax equity investment, philanthropic support, and mission-based financing that are especially available for clean energy projects.

Chandra Farley, founder of the Good Energy Project and formerly Director of the Just Energy Program at Partnership for Southern Equity, said:

Unequal burden

Energy fairness is the fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of energy production and consumption. In Atlanta Low-income residents face the fourth highest energy costs As a percentage of income in any city across the country, and Over 35% of Black and Hispanic Households in Atlanta Experience High Energy LoadsAccording to the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy.

In addition to reducing this energy load in an emergency, the Breaking Barriers Resilience Center is a model for developing similar projects elsewhere, especially with the approach of project developers, according to Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore. It is designed to function as. To bring several key stakeholders to the table, including state energy operators and members of local communities.

Due to the regulated energy market in Georgia, Breaking Barriers organizers needed to work closely with Georgia Power, the state’s leading utility. “We were very grateful to have the utility on the table,” Moore said. “Their engineering team was essential to understanding how resilience centers, including storage on solar and microgrids, work within the context of nearby utility infrastructure.”

Since the Resilience Center aims to serve the community, the Breaking Barriers developers have always sought to involve West Atlanta community members in the project planning process.

“People and organizations tend to think about resilience within the four walls,” Moore said. “From the beginning, the way AUC approached this project with us was that AUC was part of a wider community. How we brought our neighbors and their needs Do you understand what the priorities are and do this together? ”

Farley and other organizers of the Partnership for Southern Equity played an integral role in helping the project gain community support and providing seats for community members to comment. According to Moore, COVID-19 disrupted plans for project organizers to host community meetings directly, but hosted 17 neighborhood meetings on Zoom, with more than 200 attendees from the West Atlanta community. I was able to collect it.

Community members were able to ask NREL representatives technical questions and participate in the community vision process to determine the services most needed at the resilience center. Based on the opinions of community members, the completed center will provide the community with up to 8 hours of battery storage in the event of power outages, water and bathroom access, heating and cooling services, refrigeration, mobile phones and electronic charging services. To do. Above all.

Clear choice

AUC’s choice as an anchoring agency for Breaking Barriers was as obvious to Farley from the beginning as Arthur Frazier, director of facility management and services and co-chair of Sustainable Spelman, was chosen as a key collaborator. “”[Spelman is] Not only is it one of the most environmentally friendly black colleges in the country, but it is also one of the most environmentally friendly campuses in the United States, “says Farley.

With Frazier as an advisor, the developers of the Breaking Barriers project spent two months identifying potential locations on the AUC complex campus for solar installations and settled in a parking lot on the Morehouse College campus. ..

When faced with the technical challenge of creating a microgrid with several possible configurations, the team narrowed down the options based on NREL’s expertise. Among the factors to consider are the campus’s interest in consuming at least some of the generated PV, rather than exporting everything to the grid, and the ability to remote islands from the grid and PV systems. There was a requirement that the system, including, have full microgrid capabilities. You can charge the battery when isolated.

The project developer has not yet completed the microgrid design plan and is considering among the three battery capacity options. 12 hours; or 24 hours. According to the project developer, a 12-hour backup power supply requires a battery with a storage capacity of 400 kW / 4,800 kW. The increased duration of backup power required corresponds to the increased project cost caused by the required battery capacity.

According to the organizers, the concept of a university as a resilience hub for the surrounding community is a lesson that businesses can use when considering an ESG “S”. “Think of yourself as a neighbor,” Moore said. “Ask yourself not only how you can reach your sustainability goals, but also how you can be your neighbor.”

“A common question I get from businesses is’how to partner with the community’. It’s like this mystery,” he said. “We’re already doing it in different ways. Maybe you’ve had a cleanup day in your community. To partner those people with innovative projects like: Think of them as people who can. [Breaking Barriers].. They can introduce you to deeper neighborhood associations and community influencers and start those conversations. “

Resilience centers with essential resources will become more important to the well-being of communities in an era when extreme weather events can cause widespread power outages and uproot the lives of millions of people. And as more companies begin to consider adopting microgrid technology to ensure the continuity of their businesses, they will expand the luxury of continuity and provide safety to the citizens in their neighborhood. I have a chance.

When working with the local community, “you want to keep in mind that you’re not always selective,” Farley said. “Always ask about who will benefit and why.”

If all goes according to plan, construction will begin in 2022 and will be completed by 2023.

Atlanta’s Community Resilience Project is a model for energy equity Atlanta’s Community Resilience Project is a model for energy equity

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