Empowering Richmond's Iron Triangle

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August 27, 2013

“A double whammy: install solar AND give back to the old neighborhood! I’ll be there! My toolbelt is around here somewhere.”

This was the enthusiastic reaction of Tom Stucker, a GRID volunteer and Richmond native, when he found out that this year’s Bay Area Solarthon block party and fundraiser would be held in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood on Saturday, September 7th. That same day, Tom signed up as an individual fundraiser (aka Solar Champion) to support the event. In less than two weeks, he’ll be one of over 150 community volunteers, homeowners, Solar Champions, corporate sponsors and city representatives that will come together to bring the clean energy movement to the rooftops of the low-income families that need it most.

Richmond, a city that once held a beaming reputation for shipbuilding and military industriousness, is now best known for its high rates of poverty and pollution. The City of Richmond reports that two fifths of its residents live in poverty (double the poverty rate of Contra Costa County) and over half of the city’s jobs do not pay enough to sustain a family of four.1 Additionally, petrochemical refining and transportation activity abound in the area, with the result that Contra Costa Health Services states that the city’s children suffer hospitalization rates for asthma nearly twice as high as the state average.2

But despite these challenges, Richmond has been making great strides to improve the health and livelihoods of its residents. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has been working diligently with the city to curb air pollution, prioritize solar energy installation and strengthen opportunities for green job seekers. These green goals helped spur a natural partnership between GRID and Richmond: GRID has hosted job training students from both Solar Richmond and RichmondBUILD on our solar installations, providing them with hands on job-skill experience, as well as partnering with the City to install over 116 solar systems for vulnerable Richmond households. Solarthon, a solar installation block party and fundraiser where GRID will install solar for 8 low-income families in one day, represents our latest collaboration.

“We are excited to bring Solarthon to Richmond and showcase our city’s commitment to developing a community that is economically, environmentally and socially productive,” explains Mayor McLaughlin, who will be speaking at Solarthon’s morning program.

GRID is honored to be one of the solutions for increased health, sustainability and economic stability in Richmond. Our work has dramatically decreased many residents’ reliance on conventional, polluting energy sources, while saving vulnerable families thousands of dollars on their electricity bills - money they can redirect to housing and medical expenses, food, and education. The 8 solar systems that will be installed at Solarthon will continue these impacts, preventing over 466 tons of harmful greenhouse gas emissions (the carbon offset equivalent of planting 11,000 trees!) and save these families over $148,000 over the lifetimes of the systems.

“The savings will help us send our two sons to college so they can have more opportunities in life,” said homeowner Delia Hernandez, one of the homeowners who will be receiving a solar system at Solarthon. Delia has wanted to install solar on her home for years, but unsteady employment for her and her husband has prevented it. “This is a great opportunity for our family, especially in these hard economic times. It’s important for all of us to help the planet and use less energy.”

The impacts of Solarthon extend even beyond these environmental and economic benefits. By bringing solar to a community that never thought they could have it, we’re demonstrating that everyone can be a leader in the clean energy revolution regardless of their socioeconomic status. GRID strongly believes that the most effective solutions for social and environmental change must be inclusive of all of our communities. See the Bay Area Solarthon website for ways you can help empower the Iron Triangle!

Pictured above: Mrs. Sanchez and her daughter help prepare their home for their solar installation. The Sanchez family is one of 8 families going solar in the Iron Triangle during Solarthon.

 

1. California. City of Richmond. Community Health and Wellness: City of Richmond General Plan Element 11. N.p., 24 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Aug. 2013. <http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/8579>.

2. Asthma. Contra Costa Health Services, n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2013. <http://cchealth.org/topics/asthma/>.