Baltimore’s “City of Refuge” celebrates the opening of a second Community Resiliency Hub to provide clean, reliable energy

In October of 2023, the folks at Groundswell celebrated a significant milestone for the City of Refuge of Baltimore: the news that they will be the first resilience hub in Maryland to receive the benefits of a solar energy and energy storage project allowing them to expand its work.

These benefits are made possible by the Direct Pay provision of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that is greening and renovating so much of America’s decrepit and antiquated infrastructure..

The 110 kW solar installation for the Baltimore City Community Resiliency Hub at the City of Refuge of Baltimore will use 372 kWh of battery storage to provide community members with a location where they can safely gather in the aftermath of an emergency or severe weather event to allow the community to recover safely and effectively.

The mission of the City of Refuge of Baltimore is to bring “light, hope, and transformation” to the Baltimore community.

Not only are we increasing the capacity of our operational budget to continue to do good work and expand the work… we’re also contributing to the larger environment. Green energy is so valuable. While it’s expensive upfront, you want to believe the long-term cost and impact not only economically but to our environment is critical,” said Pastor Billy Humphrey, the Executive Director of the City of Refuge of Baltimore.

In mid-October, Groundswell leaders joined the partners who made this solar+storage project possible, celebrating the impact the Resiliency Hub at the City of Refuge of Baltimore will have on the City of Refuge community.

Anisha Steephen of the U.S. Department of the Treasury attended the celebration and shared remarks about how the Direct Pay provision of the Inflation Reduction Act will support the Resiliency Hub at the City of Refuge of Baltimore as the non-profit continues to serve the community.

This Resiliency Hub is a testament to the example the City of Baltimore is setting for community resilience. The City of Refuge is already a trusted location for frontline communities, and with this installation, it will be able to provide the community with access to reliable power in times of crisis and outages.

Beyond that, the ownership of this project will provide the non-profit with long-term energy savings, and these benefits will be passed on to the community.

This is the second Resiliency Hub that Groundswell has been able to partner with the City of Refuge of Baltimore, and thanks to the IRA, this new Resiliency Hub will be able to leverage these benefits to make the non-profit’s efforts to bring hope to life in Baltimore go even further.

Here’s some information about that first Resiliency Hub:

A Resiliency Hub in Baltimore, Maryland, began making a transformative impact on the community around the City of Refuge Baltimore’s Level up Youth Center soon after it was installed in 2021, supporting the nonprofit’s community outreach during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

During that time, the City of Refuge met a community need for prepared meals that exploded from 250-300 prepared meals a week to 4,000 prepared meals a week (largely due to job loss and school closures). Rev. Billy Humphrey, the organization’s Executive Director, credited the location’s status as a Resiliency Hub as one of the reasons why the City of Refuge was able to meet those needs.

The Resiliency Hub at the City of Refuge is powered by a 36 kW solar installation connected to 40 kWh of battery storage. This location was selected for its ability to provide a centralized, trusted community location where community members can access reliable power for their essential devices, continue to receive information as emergency situations develop, store medications sensitive to temperature, and safely gather in the aftermath of an emergency or severe weather event to allow the community to recover safely and effectively.

As a developer of the project, Groundswell worked with community leaders and project partners to ensure that this Resiliency Hub could meet the greatest needs within the neighborhood while building on City of Refuge’s ongoing work in the midst of one of Baltimore’s most struggling and industrial neighborhoods where nearly 40% of the residents live below the Federal Poverty Level.

This Resiliency Hub was possible thanks to the committed leadership at the City of Refuge Baltimore and Groundswell, in partnership with the City of Baltimore and the Maryland Energy Administration.

This Resiliency Hub was funded through a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration, and this work was made possible through ongoing support from the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. A.F Mensah — a minority-led solar battery storage company — oversaw engineering, procurement, and construction for this project with support from SunCatch Energy — a fourth-generation, Black-owned business with a track record of successful solar installations in the District and Maryland.

All images courtesy of Groundswell.

See Groundswell website.

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