Community-owned resilience hub breaks ground at church in West Atlanta

A collaboration between public and private partners is celebrating construction beginning on one of the first community-owned resilience hubs in the Southeast, at a church in West Atlanta.

Groundswell, in partnership with the Community Church of Atlanta, the city of Atlanta, Stryten Energy, InterUrban Solar, the Wells Fargo Foundation and the GM Foundation, has begun work on the Community Resilience Hub at the Vicars Community Center at the church, which will utilize 320 kWh of battery storage to ensure a safe gathering location in the aftermath of an emergency or severe weather event.

The community resilience hub will also support the church’s ongoing service to the community, which includes providing meals to 300-400 families each week and providing meeting space for local organizations.

“We want to be the place people turn to for help in our community, regardless of their faith,” said Kevin Earley, the Senior Pastor of Community Church Atlanta. “Being a resilience center expands our reach and impact possibilities.”

Groundswell is a nonprofit organization that helps establish community power through equitable community solar projects, clean energy programs and pioneering research initiatives, according to its website. The group works with community partners to build resilience hubs at trusted community locations in accessible areas to ensure access to reliable power for essential devices, medication storage, access to information, and more.

The Atlanta hub project utilizes Inflation Reduction Act Elective Pay to deliver community ownership. The project also received a low-income bonus tax credit through the program.

“I am delighted to see the resilience hub at Vicars Community Center at the Community Church achieve this incredible milestone. This project has been years in the making, and I am proud that my team in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and Resilience has supported this community-led effort from inception,” said Chandra Farley, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Atlanta.

“Multiple city departments will be learning from this project as we begin to stand up a resilience hub program at our community — serving municipal facilities. The resilience hub at Vicars will serve as a beacon of how to move our communities from energy burden to energy opportunity.”

Groundswell serves as the developer on the project, working with leaders to meet the greatest need in the Atlanta community. Groundwork had already been laid for the hub through the Breaking Barriers project, part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Solar Energy Innovation Network.

“The Inflation Reduction Act’s ‘direct pay’ option for solar tax credits is a game-changer for community ownership,” Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore said. “As a result, the Community Church of God will own this solar and energy storage project from day one, and the savings they will enjoy on their electricity bill will mean more money for the mission.”

Stryten Energy, based in Georgia, is designing, manufacturing and installing the battery, which will allow the hub to provide three days of backup power for use during power outages.

“Battery energy storage systems (BESS) store excess energy during periods of high renewable generation and release it when needed,” said Scott Childers, Vice President of Essential Power at Stryten Energy. “Integrating BESS into applications such as the microgrid at the Vicars Community Center ensures the continuous operation of critical resources for the local community during times of prolonged power outages.”

Stryten Energy provided a donation for the project, though leaders did not disclose how much or what type of donation.

InterUrban Solar, a black-owned business, is leading engineering, procurement and construction on the project, in collaboration with SunCatch Energy, another black-owned business with experience in successful solar installations.

The Wells Fargo Foundation and GM are also providing funding.

“Resiliency is key to continue opening avenues for economic advancement and to safeguard the opportunity to build generational wealth for all communities during the transition to a lower-carbon economy,” Wells Fargo Chief Sustainability Officer Robyn Luhning said.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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