Building community resiliency through solar in Northeast Houston

By Solar United Neighbors on September 18, 2023

Doris Brown has lived in her neighborhood in northeast Houston for 56 years. Her favorite part about her community is the people. Now, thanks to a new solar installation, she has the power to help her community in the event of an emergency.

Over the years her lights have gone out many times due to power outages. Unreliable power was more than a nuisance, it was harmful to her health. As someone with asthma and COPD, she relies on a breathing machine. Power outages impact her ability to breathe. She felt she just couldn’t depend on the grid to keep her safe.

Knowing that solar energy and battery storage would be a way to protect herself from power outages, Doris had been interested in installing solar for a long time. That’s why when the opportunity to install solar power on her home and get battery storage through a trusted community partner arose, she jumped on it.

Doris went solar through the Northeast Houston Solar Equity Project – a pilot program created through Solar United Neighbors’ partnership with nonprofit West Street Recovery (WSR), a community organization in northeast Houston.

SUN launched the effort in 2022. The two-year pilot program has a goal of offering ten fully-funded 5.2 kW solar systems each year to 10 single family low-income homeowners in northeast Houston. For the first year of the program, SUN reached out to WSR knowing that local partnerships would be the strongest way to ensure program success. WSR has knowledge of the community and strong relationships with participants. WSR recruited the participants – which is how Doris came to learn about the project – and helped facilitate the process of getting solar installed through the program.

Doris’ new system will benefit more than just her home. Doris offered to be a community “hub house.” This means that her home is open to the community in event of an emergency. Doris’ home was also selected to be one of the hub houses with battery storage. Now, she’ll be able to provide power to her neighbors if the neighborhood experiences an outage. WSR also stocked Doris’ home with emergency supplies to provide additional resources for the community if a disaster were to strike. Doris’ solar serves as an example of the community benefits of solar and storage. This also shows why city and state governments should invest more heavily in these kinds of resources.

Thanks to solar and her battery back up, Doris has been able to keep the lights on. Finding energy independence has meant more safety and security for her and for her community.

“I no longer live in fear of the lights going out, not being able to breathe,” said Doris. “I am a lot less anxious, and I don’t fear losing the food in my refrigerator. The first time the power went out in the neighborhood, I didn’t even know it until a neighbor came knocking saying, ‘Why are you the only one in the neighborhood with your lights on!?’”

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