What’s up with Clean Energy and nonprofits.
The Clean Energy Group (CEG), a national nonprofit focused on the equitable expansion of clean energy, announced that it has awarded more than $1 million in grants to community-serving organizations advancing solar + storage to benefit frontline communities. The grants have supported the work of 86 affordable housing and nonprofit community organizations, representing 93 solar+storage projects across 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. To date, the grant awards have resulted in the completion of 30 resilient solar+storage projects in low-income communities and communities of color, with more projects working toward implementation.
Clean Energy Group first launched its Technical Assistance Fund grant program in 2014 as part of the organization’s Resilient Power Project. The Resilient Power Project was established in response to the devastating power outages resulting from Superstorm Sandy, with the goal of increasing access to the resilience, health, and economic benefits of solar+storage through the advancement of inclusive programs and policy, and by providing technical assistance support to facilitate community-based project development in underserved communities.
“It is extremely gratifying to have been able to work with so many diverse partners over the years,” said CEG VP Seth Mullendore. “The role of solar + storage in community energy resilience was still a novel concept when we first introduced the Technical Assistance Fund in 2014. With today’s realities of extreme weather and life-threatening power outages, we’re working hard just to keep up with the growing demand for our services.”
The Technical Assistance Fund specializes in issuing small, targeted grants, averaging about $10,000 each, to support solar + storage projects in the early stages of exploration. The grants fill a capacity gap among community-serving nonprofits and affordable housing providers that do not have the in-house expertise to evaluate solar+storage and lack the financial resources to engage experienced technical services providers. In addition to project-based technical assistance, a portion of the grant funding also supports knowledge-building for nonprofits new to solar + storage. As of 2021, more than 50% of grant dollars awarded have gone to support the work of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) organizations, a goal that CEG is committed to continuing going forward.
“Our technical assistance grant from Clean Energy Group supported our efforts to verify the feasibility of our Resilient Native Generations project,” said Nicole Lim, executive director of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center. “In serving our local tribal community, it is critical that we implement strategies that provide environmental and cultural resource protection and emergency response during wildfires and power outages. The grant facilitated support from local government officials and partner organizations for the museum to become a designated resilience hub and generated capital funding from multiple federal and private sources.”
The Clean Energy Group is actively raising funds to achieve its goal of awarding another $1 million in Technical Assistance Funds to advance solar + storage projects in low-communities and communities of color over the next three years.
More about Clean Energy
I’m referring to the commonly used phrase, “clean energy.” All of us, even those who understand that oil, natural gas, and coal run the world, often refer to wind and solar as “clean” without even questioning it.
It’s time to do some questioning. What is it that makes wind and solar clean and fossil fuels dirty? Well, with wind and solar you don’t see anything getting burned as you do with oil, natural gas, and coal.
And it’s the burning that creates pollution. Fair enough. But let’s take a closer look at that. Air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels in the United States has been in a steep decline since 1970.
And that dramatic drop across all six pollutants the EPA classifies as dangerous took place as Americans increased their fossil fuel use by 40%. From 1980 to 2015 our vehicle miles traveled have more than doubled! So as our nation has grown we’ve used more fossil energy, traveled a lot more, and yet the air we breathe has continued to get cleaner.
That’s amazing! And, for those who are worried about energy-related CO2 emissions, they’ve been in decline for more than a decade. Oh, and here’s one more amazing fact. Since 1970, the pollution coming out of the tailpipes of our cars and trucks has been reduced by 99%.
Seriously. 99 percent! I’m not kidding. You can ask the EPA. Now, what about wind and solar? We feel like they’re clean because we don’t burn them. Well, not directly. But, let’s be real. They aren’t born of unicorns and pixie dust.
Producing solar panels and windmills requires a lot of mining for resources, especially for rare earth minerals. China owns 95% of the rare earth market and the Chinese government isn’t all that protective of the environment.
Their mining projects are creating giant, toxic and radioactive lakes. It’s a serious problem they will be dealing with for decades. And what about land use? The US Energy Information Administration estimates that natural gas, and coal use about 12 acres of land per megawatt of electricity produced.
Solar and wind gobble up 4 and 6 times the amount of land that coal and natural gas do. So, what’s so clear about that? There are other environmental impacts to consider. Industrial wind and solar projects kill a lot of wildlife.
Wind turbines alone are estimated to kill 600-thousand birds a year along with a million bats. Bats are very important to our ecosystem because they are essential to pollination. Wind turbines cause visual blight and have negative health impacts for people who live around them like noise, shadow flicker, and vibrations.
Let’s keep in mind that fossil fuels have been running the world since they began fueling the industrial revolution and still carry more than 80% of the load. Wind and solar contribute less than 3% to our energy use and for that small amount of power, we’re dealing with a significant amount of environmental nastiness.
The point of all this is not to disparage wind and solar, but to talk about them in a way that makes sense. It’s ridiculous to say fossil fuels are dirty while wind and solar are clean. They’re not.
All energy sources and technologies have their impacts, but in the case of oil, natural gas, and coal, there have been astonishing improvements over the past half-century. They are much, much cleaner and getting more so all the time.