Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and community solar power-We Solar, plus climate champion, Kristal Hansley!
Chesapeake Climate Action Network, We Solar, Climate Champ–Kristal Hansley
CHESAPEAKE CLIMATE ACTION NETWORK
I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day about possible climate organizations she might choose to join, given her vast experience in the space, and the name Chesapeake Climate Action Network came up. Have you ever heard of it?
I thought I had. I searched our The Climate Daily database, and it turns out we’ve yet to report on them. So here goes. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network claims to be the “first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC.” CCAN was founded in July 2002 by Mike Tidwell, a long-time Maryland resident and author. Tidwell’s written three non-fiction environmental books and two memoirs, including one of his time in the Peace Corps.
So he’s got some street cred…Yes, but I digress. The CCAN is currently involved in more than a dozen environmental campaigns in the DMV including “No Fracked—Gas Pipelines on Maryland’s Eastern Shore” and “Sea Level Rise: Virginia’s Greatest Threat.” Nationally, CCAN is also involved in the “hashtagEXXONNKNEW: Making Polluters Pay for Climate Change” campaign.
Some of their most recent victories in the DC/Maryland/VA region include introduction and passage of two stand-alone provisions of the “Climate Solutions Now” Act as pieces of legislation to ensure their chances of passage; the “Zero-Emission Bus Transition” Act (SB 137) and the “Tree Solutions Now” Act (HB 991). And while the “Climate Solutions Now” Act unfortunately failed to pass in 2021 in Maryland, these key provisions passed!
COMMUNITY SOLAR POWER–WE SOLAR
WeSolar’s mission is to bring under-resourced communities affordable access to local community solar and to assist commercial properties with energy efficiency. Too often, communities of color are skeptical about alternative energy resources. Much of that skepticism comes from lack of good information conveyed by trusted community partners.
WeSolar was founded by Howard University alum, Kristal Hansley, and it’s America’s first Black-owned solar energy company. Hansley came to understand the importance of trusted community leader communication while working at Neighborhood Sun, a regional solar company in Maryland, as director of Government and Community Relations. “After working with solar energy developers and city leadership in Baltimore helping thousands of low-to-moderate-income families save on their utility bills, I decided to launch my own company dedicated specifically to opening community solar farms in neighborhoods like Baltimore.”
WeSolar launched in Baltimore on Juneteenth, 2020, and expanded to Washington, DC in 2021, despite the pandemic. Hansley and her team of disrupters advocate that communities of color and low-income communities be included in this shift and have a healthy environment in the future. Through WeSolar, electricity consumers can purchase shared solar from a local project without having to install any equipment in their homes. In turn, residents save hundreds on their electricity bills. WeSolar is taking advantage of a Maryland law that states 50 percent of its electricity must come from renewable energy sources by 2030.
CLIMATE CHAMPION, KRISTAL HANSLEY
So who is this remarkable young woman, Kristal Hansley, and what compelled her to become the first Black, female CEO of an American community solar energy company, WeSolar? She shared an origin story recently with Bloomberg Green: The indifference of middle-aged, White car salesmen gave Kristal Hansley her start in green energy. She had just finished a stint on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2017, when she started working at a Chevy dealership outside of Baltimore. She was the only Black woman on the showroom floor. Her coworkers, mostly White men, were more interested in selling Corvettes and Silverados than the electric vehicles on show. So Hansley carved out a niche selling Bolts and Volts, making a dozen sales of the electric models every month.
“It was a key moment,” Hansley says. “I got a front row seat of who gets to benefit from green rebates and other incentives. Mainly wealthier people.”
BTW, that “stint” on Capitol Hill was actually leading the Community Affairs policy at Congresswoman Eleanor Norton’s office. While there, she witnessed the state of Maryland pass new laws to increase the use of solar energy across the state. She put two and two together. Said Hansley in an email interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, “I saw how effectively solar could reduce the cost of electricity for households, and decided to get involved in the emerging world of community solar,”