On Building Community Power

In August, Groundswell, along with our friends at Pepco, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Green Bank, Sunlight General Capital, SunCatch Energy, and local officials celebrated the installation of solar panels at Paddington Square Apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland. Community Solar at Paddington Square is groundbreaking in that it is Montgomery County's first community solar project built to serve low- and moderate-income households. Conventional solar projects often include financial barriers such as high consumer credit scores and long-term contracts that limit solar access to the affluent. The Paddington Square community solar project breaks down all the barriers.

Although it was gratifying to celebrate the start of construction on this special project, the physical installation of solar panels is not the end goal — it's just the beginning of the story. The real "win" for this project is in how we share power with the community through an equitable distribution of value over the long term. 

Construction in Progress: An Opportunity Three Years in the Making

Transformative projects like this don’t happen overnight. Community Solar at Paddington Square is the result of three years of careful planning alongside strong community partners who shared our goal of bringing equitable solar energy to Maryland. When the first solar panels arrived at Paddington Square Apartments in June, our entire team celebrated the project milestone. 

Now installation is nearly complete, and, in a few short months, 91 SharePower community solar subscribers will receive the benefits of locally produced clean energy. Twenty-eight of those subscriptions have been set aside for income-qualified subscribers within Pepco's Maryland territory, who will receive no-cost Empowered subscriptions. Empowered subscriptions connect our neighbors in Maryland who face high energy burdens with the benefits of clean energy and energy savings.

Transformative New Opportunities

Community Solar at Paddington Square is also part of efforts to introduce the Silver Spring community to career opportunities that would have been less visible and less accessible when the installation was first proposed. The US solar industry employs more than 230,000 workers as of 2020, according to the National Solar Jobs Census, and updated regulations in states like Maryland are already making more solar installations possible, which in turn, creates demand for a larger solar workforce.

The weekend following the ribbon cutting celebration, Groundswell, the Montgomery County Green Bank, the Housing Opportunities Commision of Montgomery County, SunCatch Energy, and Montgomery County Community College collaborated to host an informational, careers-focused workshop at Paddington Square. The workshop drew a modest but engaged group of community members, who shared questions and learned about new career opportunities in the solar sector. 

SunCatch Energy Founder and CEO Brad Boston’s explanation of what it means to be a solar installer really hit home for attendees. Boston, a fourth generation electrical contractor and a Black business owner, is passionate about building up employees with strong careers and opportunities. His team has installed solar arrays at numerous locations throughout the DC region, and his care for every aspect of his work shows in the finished product.

Groundswell’s team also had the opportunity to speak about other slightly less obvious solar careers, including roles as customer service representatives, like our team members who will answer calls and provide industry-leading customer service to Paddington Square subscribers beginning this fall. 

How You Can Support Energy Equity in Maryland

Community solar projects like the one at Paddington Square apartments are possible because of support from people who decide that they want to make a difference in our community and our planet every time they flip a light switch. 

If you are a Pepco Maryland customer, you are eligible to support energy equity by subscribing to Community Solar at Paddington Square. Pepco Maryland customers can sign up for this transformative community solar installation at SharePower.Groundswell.org