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Beyond Megawatts: The Social Implications of Community Power Projects

Beyond Megawatts: The Social Implications of Community Power Projects

A joint article by 
Samantha Go and Devika Narayan, SolSolution 
Mümtaz Derya Tarhan, The Community Power Report

Community power projects are ushering in a new movement that allows citizens to take charge of their energy needs by providing locally generated renewable energy to their communities. These local projects are not only gaining momentum because of the economic and environmental advantages they provide, but also because of the immense social benefits they offer. Community-owned power projects encourage community-building and social cohesion as a group of ordinary citizens is presented with the opportunity to come together and achieve something extraordinary.

An essential part of ensuring community power projects keep thriving lies in communicating the benefits of renewable energy and community ownership. Educating the public about the significant impact and tangible benefits that community power projects offer can also help convince higher-level policy makers that they can take actions that significantly improve the quality of life in their neighbourhoods and districts. And where better to start the chain of education than with our future leaders?

SolSolution: Empowering Kids to Make a Difference

Today, most of us just flick switches on and off  without knowing where the electricity that powers our many gadgets comes from. Patrick Devine-Wright attributed this ‘psychological distance’ between energy generation and energy use to the current scheme of centralized global electricity production from traditional sources. One significant way in which we can bridge this mental gap is to educate our younger generation about where their electricity comes from. When kids are taught about energy production, it allows them to feel more connected to themselves, the environment, their community, and the world.

Take SolSolution for example. They are a Boston-based green startup that provides solar energy solutions for K-12 schools and are dedicated to educating our next generation about renewable energy and community power. It has a clear yet powerful dual mission that seamlessly fuses community power and education.

The solar panels on the roofs serve as a catalyst for engaged, hands-on learning, and the students play an integral role in assessing their own school’s solar capacity. The panels drive students’ curiosity and interest in renewable energy projects and green entrepreneurship opportunities. By experiencing a solar installation firsthand, students are motivated to take their experience another step further. Whether it be talking with a skeptical parent or teacher about the benefits of green energy or being inspired to pursue their very own community power project, students’ newfound knowledge moves them to take action. This, in turn, inspires parents, teachers, and neighbors to get involved after they witness how excited their kids are about green energy initiatives.

By educating our future leaders and the general public about the importance and value of community power projects, many people will be motivated to make a difference in their own communities, fueling new, lasting and effective community power initiatives. When students are provided with the chance to see the concrete benefits of clean energy solutions, it allows them to connect what they are learning inside their science and math classrooms with possibilities outside the classroom in the present and future to make a difference for the world.

(Photo: Courtesy of Communities for Renewables)

Community power projects are capable of producing great economic benefits both at the micro and macro levels and building a strong foundation for a safer and more reliable energy future. But the social benefits that they bring are where the real magic lies. These locally-owned projects have the capacity to bring entire neighbourhoods together by strengthening their core identity as a green community. From there, this joint, concerted effort can demonstrate the measurable and significant impact individual choices and actions have on our environment. That sense of ownership leads to a sense of pride in a community, improving the natural and social environment overall. Isn’t that the type of neighborhood you want to live in?

Students are not the only community members who can benefit from learning about and starting their own community power projects. Anyone has the power to start a community power project, and by teaching people to embrace the positive change that comes along with community-based renewable energy projects, we can light up the path to a better, brighter future for us all.

This was the last piece of SolSolution and The Community Power Report’s Community Power Series. You may also want to take a look at our ‘Introduction to Community Power’ and ‘Economic and Environmental Benefits of Community Power’ 

What do you think about Community Power? What can it do for your community? Please feel free to contribute to our conversation by leaving us a comment below. Or you can tweet us with your thoughts and questions @thecpreport with hashtag #PowerUp.

Follow SolSolution on Twitter @thesolsolution and The Community Power Report @thecpreport

Samantha Go and Devika Narayan, SolSolution 

Mümtaz Derya Tarhan, The Community Power Report

2 Responses to “Beyond Megawatts: The Social Implications of Community Power Projects”

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