“Soul”ar is blooming in North Philadelphia!
“Soul”ar is blooming in North Philadelphia: Sprouting next is Morris Chapel Baptist Church!
Climate Justice on the Ground
Morris Chapel Baptist Church is a community center and place of worship located in North Philadelphia, an underserved community of color. Through a multitude of events and services, including youth groups and therapy sessions, Morris Chapel serves the neighborhood and provides a safe place for individuals in the community to gather and celebrate. For many years the church has been interested in going solar, which would allow them to save money to better serve the community. With the support of Serenity Soular, RE-volv, and Solar States, they now intend to make this a reality!
Serenity Soular is an initiative to build the green economy in North Philadelphia by supporting the creation of jobs in the solar industry 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. Last year Serenity Soular began its collaboration with RE-volv and Solar States, a Philadelphia-based solar installation company, to bring solar power to Serenity House, a community center across the street from Morris Chapel. Serenity Soular also supported two local apprentices to job-shadow the installation process, after which they were both hired by Solar States, launching them into careers in the green economy.
This spring we are continuing this successful partnership with RE-volv and Solar States in order to bring solar power to Morris Chapel Baptist Church! With the help of your donations, Solar States will install 9.1 kilowatts of photovoltaic panels on Morris Chapel, covering close to twenty-five percent of the building’s electricity load and saving the church money for years to come. Serenity Soular will also be supporting two new apprentices, Eric Pope and Nafeece Glover, to attend solar classes and to job-shadow the solar panel installation process on Morris Chapel’s roof.
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 unfeasible, 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.