Community Solar on a Food Coop
In 1974, a group of San Francisco’s pragmatic idealists, the Food Conspiracy, a grass-roots organization of food-buying clubs committed to buying and distributing wholesale food among themselves, became Other Avenues Worker Cooperative. Its mission is and was “food for the people, not profit.” Other stores expanded out of this group and yet, today, Other Avenues is thriving where many did not last.
Lasting through the years is only one feather in the cap of this people-and-food enterprise. The latest feather in its cap is expanding beyond wholesome food to wholesome planetary energy by installing and utilizing solar energy. It joins with San Francisco-based nonprofit RE-VOLV, which recently announced signing a solar lease agreement with Other Avenues Food Store. A crowdfunding campaign by RE-VOLV will launch to finance the installation in the store. Following its Solar Seed Fund financing model, RE-VOLV will reinvest Other Avenue’s lease payments to fund three more solar energy projects in the community. This is a model it has been pioneering since we first covered in back in 2012.
RE-VOLV Executive Director Andreas Karelas explains why he is so happy to be working with Other Avenues in an email sent to CleanTechnica: “The 400 daily shoppers don’t just come here because of the delicious organic produce. They also come because they share Other Avenue’s commitment to healthy, equitable communities. We’re thrilled to be able to offer the members of this community the ability to help Other Avenues go solar.”
As RE-VOLV’s largest venture to date, its partner, SunWork, will participate as well. SunWork will install a 36 kW system on Other Avenues’ roof. This installation is expected to save $335,000 in energy costs over the next 25 years for Other Avenues. In doing so, this solar project is estimated to account for 33% of Other Avenues’ electrical needs and, even more importantly, avoid the release of 24,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year as well as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.
“We’re very excited to partner with RE-VOLV on this solar campaign and be one of the first communities to help launch the revolving Solar Seed Fund,” said Darryl Dea, President of Other Avenues. “After investigating solar for eight years, we feel very lucky to have found the right fit with RE-volv. This is a great way for Other Avenues to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable living and sustainable communities.”
RE-VOLV has focused on community-based solar projects since its beginning. RE-VOLV already completed two solar projects in the Bay Area, at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, and at the Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont. A nice note for college students, RE-VOLV is also expanding nationally through its recently launched Solar Ambassador Program. College students can be in action and experience solar project development in their community.
This story brings up an important reminder: we can vote with how we spend our money. Our most significant purchasing choices affect our planet, either for better or worse. And they also affect our community. If you’re in the area, Other Avenues, a worker-owned cooperative, is located at 3930 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA 94122. It sets a standard that we should all meet, and surely deserves more community support.
Buying guidelines Other Avenues follows are:
- To emphasize organic, sustainable, vegetarian, and fairly-traded products (our Produce section is 100% certified organic)
- To educate customers on the political implications of our buying choices
- To avoid artificial flavors, preservatives, GMO ingredients, and unnecessary packaging
Other good solar collaborations are sprouting up as communities, homeowners, and businesses see the savings all around — in the pocketbook, as an investment, and as an important pathway to planetary wellness. Planetsave.com, for example, has a story of collaboration between KB Home and SunPower in which houses in select KB Home communities in Irvine, El Dorado Hills, and San Diego, California, will be able to generate their own clean energy with home solar power systems. They will also be able to store that energy.
But perhaps what this is most reminiscent of are all of those solar schools crowdfunding campaigns we’ve see popping up. For the community, by the community, via solar.