We propose a pilot project to integrate solar panels on the main building of a renovation project that is in progress to renovate an abandoned school into LEED Platinum-certified buildings. The main building will house 40 low income housing units, 20 housing market rate units, a day care and wellness center, and space for Hazelwood’s community empowerment organization, Center of Life (COL), that provides families and youth with the life-skills, education, training, and resources necessary to be strong and to make their communities strong. Our project will provide information and educational resources to develop a longer-term future program to greatly expand solar energy use in Low and Moderate Income (LMI) households and nonprofit organizations in the greater Pittsburgh area. The Hazelwood Initiative (HI), working closely with COL and Hazelwood residents bought the abandoned Gladstone school, and is managing its renovation through an LLC that they created, Gladstone Community Partnership. The process of this renovation project is following a community-based design approach, making decisions to add architectural aspects and functionality according to the visions of the community.
Our project will follow these footsteps and further encourage residents-helping-residents by training interested locals in the planning, permitting and installation process to become skilled to work as solar providers. The training aspect will create jobs and drive further projects to scale up the mission and bring solar energy to more LMI households and nonprofit organizations in the region. We will build on the existing partnerships with Phronesis, a company founded by Tim Duggan who has been a critical partner and driver of the community-based design approach for the Gladstone redevelopment project and Make it Right. Both companies are working on the Gladstone redevelopment project. Make it Right is an organization founded by Brad Pitt that builds safe, affordable, high-quality, environmentally sustainable homes for people in need. Other local partners like the Green Building Alliance will also help provide technical assistance and training. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is another team member that will provide expertise on the legal and permitting aspects of the proposed solar project.
We will work together with several local organizations whose mission is to improve quality of living by increasing sustainability, energy efficiency, education, and resilience while reducing pollution in our neighborhoods and city, including Conservation Consultants, Inc.(CCI), Sustainable Pittsburgh, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), Community Development Financial Institution Fund (CDFI Fund), and the Heinz Endowments.
Our project will provide several immediate positive impacts, including reducing electricity bills for LMI residents, creating local jobs, reducing pollution associated with power generation by burning fossil fuels, and providing a model and educational resources for future projects. In the proposed pilot project, we will work together with some of our partners like GBA and CCI, who have already developed programs to provide upgrades and improvements to increase the efficiency of LMI households, which are typically older homes (80-90 years old). Future projects will continue to integrate energy efficiency improvements with solar energy to best maximize the benefits and promote a larger view of energy management to our LMI clients and the public. By installing solar panels and increasing the energy efficiency of older homes, these types of projects can make them more affordable for the residents that live in them, even as energy prices for fossil fuels increase in the future.
Our long-term goal is to use lessons learned from this pilot project to create a regional Program designed to expand the initiative and provide more solar energy to LMI households and nonprofit organizations throughout the greater Pittsburgh area. Our project will bring on board neighboring low and moderate income (LMI) households and cause a “ripple effect” to scale up and motivate many other homeowners to go solar throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.