A New Day in Baltimore: From Solar Power to Economic Empowerment

Empowerment Temple in Baltimore

“[This opportunity will enable] us to get in on the ground floor with a new and emerging industry… You are going to be the pioneers. Don’t look at what’s here, but look out on the horizon for what’s coming. And then position yourself and your community for what’s to come.” – Anthony W. Robinson, Chair of the Economic Empowerment Coalition of Empowerment Temple, at Groundswell’s Green Ambassadors kickoff event on December 2, 2017.

Empowerment Temple in Baltimore is a renowned community anchor that serves both as a place of worship and a force for local economic development.  With the vision of Pastor Jamal Bryant, the Temple created the Economic Empowerment Coalition (TEEC) a decade ago to empower members of its congregation in business and entrepreneurship, using tools ranging from entrepreneurship classes to Shark Tank competitions and crowd-funding campaigns.

To further this mission, Empowerment Temple and TEEC are partnering with Groundswell, the U.S. Green Business Council (USGBC) and A.F. Mensah to bring a solar power and battery storage project to the Temple grounds, combined with a green-building job training and apprenticeship program that kicked off earlier this month with an educational seminar. This is a holistic approach to strengthening the community that will launch one of the very first community solar projects in Maryland, transform Empowerment Temple into a resiliency center, and train community members in green technologies that drive more than 3 million jobs in America today. 

Groundswell is working with the Temple toward a community solar installation that will generate approximately 350 kW of solar power, providing clean energy and lower utility bills to residents of a city that on average pay 24% higher than the national average for electricity. We are grateful to partner with A.F. Mensah -- the African-American founded and led company that is one of the leading solar battery storage companies in the world -- on a battery storage project that will make Empowerment a place of physical refuge by keeping the Temple's lights on during severe weather, natural disasters or localized community disruptions.  

Read: Anthony W. Robinson, Chair of Empowerment Temple's TEEC, tells the story of how Maryland's first black congressman led him to a career in civil rights advocacy.

Best of all: We don’t have to wait for a groundbreaking to start equipping community members for good jobs. In partnership with USGBC, we are creating a training program for TEEC that will help connect people to jobs and opportunities for green entrepreneurship in their community and beyond. The program will use Empowerment’s Baltimore buildings—on the main church property, on Eutaw St, and at its religious charter school—as a practical teaching tool through intensive workshops that will begin in early 2018.  At the “Green Ambassadors” kickoff event that Groundswell held at Empowerment Temple on December 2, 2017, community leaders, Empowerment trustee board members, TEEC officers and interested parishioners learned about fundamental green building principles from our partners at USGBC.  Next steps include holding a practical workshop, compiling utility consumption data, and benchmarking the current energy performance of Empowerment’s facilities.

We are inspired by the work of The Empowerment Temple, and all of our partners in this comprehensive effort to build community power.  By the end of 2018, we plan to join them in celebrating the dozens of families who are cutting their electricity bills through Empowerment’s solar project; the young men and women who will get training and apprenticeship through this program; the new role of Empowerment Temple as a resiliency hub; and the promise of solar power to transform communities through economic empowerment.