About Unity Gardens
Northern California Land Trust (NCLT) is a Bay Area nonprofit that uses community ownership to provide affordable homes and community facilities in perpetuity. Founded in 1973, they have led the development of many innovations and developments in cooperative and community ownership models that help ensure housing and economic justice for all. Unity Gardens, located in Berkeley, California is a 6-unit affordable housing apartment community owned by NCLT. RE-volv brought solar to Unity Gardens in 2018, which allows residents to save money each month on their electricity bills.
Affordable Housing Crisis in the Bay Area
The San Francisco Bay Area is a beautiful and prosperous place, and in many ways a world leader technologically and culturally. However, the recent economic surge in the area comes with growing pains. Rising housing prices has become a major issue for many long-term Bay Area residents. As the housing market continues to inflate, low-income residents are pushed out of their communities by new arrivals who are able to pay higher rental rates. In a place with such wealth, there are tremendous levels of inequality, which has in turn caused an epidemic of displacement and homelessness. NCLT provides low-income residents with affordable housing that allows them to stay in their community and avoid displacement.
Going Solar with RE-volv
To bring solar to Unity Gardens, we partnered with Grid Alternatives who installed an 11 kW system on the roof of Unity Gardens, which will cover 88% of the building’s electricity load and save residents 35% on their electricity bills each month. As Unity Gardens makes solar lease payments to RE-volv each month, these payments will be put into RE-volv’s Solar Seed Fund, a revolving fund for solar that is used to bring solar to more nonprofits throughout the county.
NCLT values sustainability as part of its mission. Just as community land trusts are set up to provide a sustainable housing solution, solar power is a sustainable energy solution. Solar adds value to the property and puts more resources back into the hands of the community. Ian Winters, Executive Director of Northern California Land Trust says, “Our partnership with RE-volv came at a critical time in NCLT’s history and has helped launch our plan to adapt all of our projects to 100% renewable within the next ten years. Our partnership at Unity Gardens helps provide energy equity and permanent affordability to the entire Unity Gardens community with 100% of the energy savings going to low-income residents in terms of reduced utility bills.”
Unity Gardens Solar Ribbon Cutting
What Unity Gardens Residents are Saying
“I can say that I have greatly benefited from the installation of the solar panels. I believe I see this most through recognizing the money saved on my electricity bill. Having a household with three children, tons of energy is used. It is also dependable during power outages.”
“It has helped a lot. I was on the PG&E program for low income people. The solar panels helped bring the bill down even more. It’s good and I really appreciate it.”
“Even if you can save 5 to 10 dollars a month, it’s a lot. I spent the savings on food [for myself and my 6 year old granddaughter], which helped when school closed. And when the school opened again, it helped with that.”
Partnering for Community Supported Solar Energy
A team of RE-volv Solar Ambassadors based in the Bay Area worked to bring solar to Unity Gardens. The Solar Ambassadors says, “We are solar enthusiasts with varying levels of industry experience who wanted to get involved to better our local community. We came across this project and were excited about the good work NCLT is doing, and the opportunity to help them harness the power of the sun.”
The Solar Ambassadors lead a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the upfront cost of the solar system and help educate the community about renewable energy. Thank you to the 72 generous donors who donated to the crowdfund campaign to help Unity Gardens go solar. View the crowdfund video for this campaign below.
RE-volv is proud to be partnering with GRID Alternatives, who installed the solar energy system at Unity Gardens. GRID Alternatives is the nation's largest nonprofit solar installer and has a mission of making renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities. A tremendous thanks to our partners, Northern California Land Trust and Patagonia for your support on this project! We'd also like to thank our partners at Jinko Solar for donating the solar panels for this installation!