Guest blog - Creating Equitable Renewable Energy
In North Carolina, low-income families are disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of climate change. Moreover, low-income families are the worst equipped to combat climate change given the high upfront costs of renewable energy. For less affluent homeowners, electricity bills account for 5-30% of their total income, placing additional stress on their economic mobility.
Will Nichols grew up as a huge supporter of Habitat for Humanity and renewable energy. He attended Habitat for Humanity builds monthly while also establishing his high school’s first ever sustainability club. In 2020, he went off to college at UNC-Chapel Hill knowing he wanted to make an impact on either the environment or affordable housing in his community. Funny enough, he had never considered doing both. During a freshman year environmental class, Liz Henke, a local Rotarian, proposed an internship that addressed the issues bilaterally. He was immediately intrigued and began working with HFH and local rotary groups. Before long, he recruited fellow environmental advocates to join his organization, and the initiative quickly gained momentum. 10 months later, the group filed as a 501(c)(3) and SolarEquity was born.
During their first year of operations – alongside East Chapel Hill Rotary, Southern Energy Management, and Strata Clean Energy – SolarEquity provided the assets and panels necessary for the solarization of 13 Habitat for Humanity homes in Hillsborough, NC. Solarizing these households with 5.4 KW systems will prevent 300,000 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere over the 30-year lifespan of the solar panels while reducing the homeowner’s energy bill by $70 per month.
Alongside the implementation of solar panels, SolarEquity hosts weekly club meetings at UNC-Chapel Hill where the general club members meet to discuss their tasks and roles in the club while also building a community of students that are passionate about equitable renewable energy. The organization tries to expand the community not just through the homes worked on but also through career and professional development with the Speaker Series. Hosting a speaker twice a month brings professionals to the campus and gives insight on careers, more educational opportunities, and spreads SolarEquity’s message to other organizations.
The SolarEquity EMPOWERment project aims to solarize EMPOWERment’s upcoming development, the PEACH Apartments, a 10-unit complex for families oppressed by decades of redlining policies in the area. This partnership will deliver marked reductions in residents’ energy bills, increasing disposable income while also slowing local gentrification.
Donations and Support
To support our mission, please consider a tax-deductible donation to SolarEquity. You can make a donation online at solar-equity.org or by mailing a check (made out to “SolarEquity”) to Box #356 FPG Student Union, UNC-CH Campus Box 5210, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.
Your support can go a long way in helping SolarEquity work to fulfill its mission of revolutionizing access to renewable energy across North Carolina.
Will Nichols - Founder, President firstname.lastname@example.org
Kaya Johnson - Director of Networking email@example.com
Caroline White - Assistant Director of Networking firstname.lastname@example.org