This spring the Swarthmore Solar Ambassadors are continuing a successful partnership with RE-volv, Serenity Soular, and Solar States in order to bring solar power to The Village of Arts and Humanities! With the help of your donations, Solar States will install 11.4 kilowatts of photovoltaic panels, covering 72% of the building’s electricity load and saving the organization money for years to come.
Climate Justice on the Ground
The Village of Arts and Humanities supports the voices and aspirations of the North Philadelphia community by providing opportunities for self-expression rooted in art and culture. The organization inspires individuals to be agents of positive change through programs that engage youth, revitalize community, preserve heritage, and encourage environmental stewardship.
Two years ago, Serenity Soular began its collaboration with RE-volv and Solar States, a Philadelphia-based solar installation company. The team’s first project brought solar power to Serenity House, a North Philadelphia community center that offers support groups and other services for community members. Serenity Soular builds the green economy in North Philadelphia by supporting the creation of solar jobs and making solar affordable. Serenity Soular has dual commitments to sustainable energy and to the well-being of residents in North Philadelphia, as is reflected in the project’s name. To date, Serenity Soular has supported four local apprentices to job-shadow the installation process, launching them into careers in the green economy.
A Unique Collaboration
Serenity Soular brings a diverse group of people and institutions together around the common goal of supporting a thriving and sustainable community in North Philadelphia. Since its inception, the project has been fueled by a collaboration between members of the North Philadelphia community and students and faculty from Swarthmore College, all seeing each other as equally valuable and co-creating an alternative vision of the future. The team believes that the transition to 100% renewable energy can include and empower residents who have been disadvantaged by the current economic system.
A Bold Vision
In 2013, a series of community conversations between members of the Serenity House men’s group and students and faculty from Swarthmore College identified several goals for advancing sustainability in North Philadelphia’s struggling neighborhoods. One of these goals, which was implemented in 2013, was to build a community garden with butterfly attracting plants to create beauty in the neighborhood. Another favorite idea was to install a green roof with a rooftop garden on the Serenity House garage. Although the rooftop garden was deemed infeasible, ongoing discussions about sustainability and green energy led to the decision to organize community education events focused on solar energy in the new garden. At one of these solar workshops in the fall of 2014, the group learned the techniques of solar by actually installing a solar panel on the Serenity House garage, which now powers LED lights in the garden. This event sparked a continuing conversation about the potential role that solar can play in the revitalization of North Philadelphia. The Serenity Soular team has a long-term goal of launching a worker-owned solar installation cooperative which would employ North Philadelphians to create a sustainable future.
How it Works
RE-volv’s mission is to empower people and communities to invest collectively in renewable energy. To finance its solar projects, RE-volv crowdfunds donations from people around the world to cover the upfront costs of a solar installation for a community-serving nonprofit or co-op. Once the solar energy system is up and running and powering the nonprofit or co-op with clean energy, the organization pays RE-volv back over time through a solar lease. The money is reinvested into more community projects, just like this one, creating a revolving fund for solar energy in communities around the country.
This project is made possible by contributions from generous organizations and donors like you! We'd like to thank our amazing partners at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation for supporting The Village of Arts and Humanities' solar array.