Groundswell’s Kristal Virgil on Reducing Electric Bills and Improving Energy Equity in D.C.
*Please note the picture was taken pre-COVID
As we look towards the future, many people envision a world with equitable clean energy. Although this is a desire, many people don’t know how to get there. Enter Groundswell - an organization whose mission is focused on building community power through equitable community solar projects, clean energy programs, and pioneering research initiatives that help light the way to clean energy futures for all.
Today’s post features Kristal Virgil, director of organizational development and customer support at Groundswell. Virgil leads Groundswell’s team in joyful service that prioritizes people. Today she will be telling us about the organization, how they hope to ensure clean energy access in D.C., and recent solar projects they are looking forward to. Read more below, and don’t forget to take the Reduce Energy Use D.C. Pledge!
*Please note the picture was taken pre-COVID
What should Reduce Energy Use D.C. blog readers know about Groundswell?
Groundswell is a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., focused on building community power. We build people-centered community solar projects, develop clean energy programs that reduce energy burdens, and serve as a subscriber manager organization that serves more than 3,700 income-qualified customers with more than $1.85 million per year in clean energy savings. Our pioneering research initiatives help light the way to a clean energy future for all.
I’ve been with the organization for the last five years, and I have been so grateful to be part of an organization that can talk the talk and walks the walk.
How is Groundswell working to ensure there is clean energy and equitable development in D.C.?
Clean energy and social justice are at the heart of what Groundswell does. Groundswell ensures there is clean energy and equitable development in the District by first doing our part with the projects we build. Our approach to equitable community solar projects focuses on improving solar access for all by removing barriers to sign up.
We make it possible for D.C. residents to access solar without credit checks, long-term contracts, or technical jargon. Groundswell’s SharePower subscriptions devote solar savings to income-qualified “Empowered” subscribers. Empowered subscribers have household incomes that are significantly less than the area median income.
Which recent Solar for All projects are you excited about and why?
Last year, four new Groundswell community solar arrays were connected to the grid, and no-cost subscriptions from these projects are dramatically improving energy equity, thanks to Solar for All. For example, at DuPont Park Seventh Day Adventist Church in Ward 7, 47 households are now benefiting from no-cost, Empowered subscriptions. These subscriptions are making a big difference in the lives of D.C. residents. This project is possible thanks to the D.C. Solar for All program that makes being a part of the clean energy movement possible for all Washingtonians.
How does Groundswell incorporate workforce training and apprenticeship opportunities into their work in D.C.? What is the overall impact?
At Groundswell, our team works to deeply connect the value chain of each project to local community priorities — like affordability, quality of life, jobs, training, and supporting local Black and woman-owned businesses. SunCatch Energy LLC, a local and minority-owned engineering, procurement, and construction partner, built several of Groundswell's community solar projects in D.C., and has developed a rigorous solar skills and workplace safety training program. To get an aspiring employee working and earning a paycheck as quickly as possible, SunCatch’s program (“SOLAR 30”) combines industry-standard OSHA 10 safety training and couples it with 20 hours of training on understanding and installing solar and building mechanical systems. Since 2019, 16 D.C. residents — many of whom are returning citizens — have completed SunCatch’s SOLAR 30 training program. We’re glad to be able to work with Brad Boston, President of SunCatch Energy LLC, and other minority business owners supporting these goals as a way we can help support and sustain our commitment to communities for the long term.
(Note: given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SunCatch has been unable to conduct in-person group training sessions since early 2020. SunCatch plans to resume the training when it is safe to do so).
To keep up with the latest news involving Groundswell, visit Groundswell.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @grndswell.