Community Solar Microgrids: A Path to Community-Owned Energy

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North Berkeley

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Berkeley, CA 94708

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Join us for this interactive salon and learn about Resilient Richmond, a plan to microgrid the entire city of Richmond with locally generated renewable energy.


6:30pm Vegetarian Potluck (optional)

7:00pm-9:00pm Presentation and interactive salon

RSVP required, space limited


Well known for its refineries and chemical plants as well as its potent progressive community, now Richmond has an opportunity to transform its reputation as an epicenter of fossil fuel processing into a beacon of community-owned renewable energy and a model for the Bay Area and beyond.

Why microgrids? Two compelling trends, climate chaos (severe weather) and cyberattacks, present us with an urgent opportunity. Our Bay Area energy infrastructure, including our role as the central nervous system for the nation's high tech industry, is increasingly vulnerable to both natural disasters and human mischief. City-wide microgrids not only provide energy resilience and increased security but prompt a complete rethinking of the entire economic, cultural and social structure of our communities. No city in the country has yet attempted to create a grid of microgrids sufficient to serve its entire community as proposed in Resilient Richmond. This is an ambitious, expensive proposition requiring a hybrid approach to financing its construction and the joint participation of state, municipal, private, nonprofit and philanthropic institutions. Community investment in and ownership of locally renewable energy generation, likely in the form of an energy cooperative, is a key component both to tap into community capital and to provide opportunities for local residents to invest in and benefit directly from ownership of their own energy resources (true "power to the people"). Once initial investments are repaid (7-10 years), only operations and maintenance remain. The resulting surpluses can be used to fund schools, parks, medical facilities, and other chronically underfunded public services. Resilient Richmond proposes one practical path to energy democracy, with the engagement of local community groups, elected leaders, private firms, nonprofit and philanthropic institutions, microgrid experts, public utilities and more.

Meet the founder of the Resilient Richmond initiative, his lead technical adviser, and a representative from the Richmond progressive community. Learn about their proposal and the potential of renewable community microgrids for your hometown. Come with your questions, networking resources and ideas for Bay Area energy resilience, local ownership of renewable energy resources, and their potential to spur community transformation. See the Resilient Richmond Concept Paper and Executive Summary for more information.


Mark Sommer

Mark Sommer is the creator of Resilient Richmond: Community Microgrids To Strengthen Resilience, Generate Revenue, Create Green Jobs, and Build Community, a proposal for Richmond, California to build a comprehensive network of renewable microgrids to supply the city's energy needs and distribute any surplus to surrounding communities through its Community Choice Aggregator, MCE (formerly Marin Community Energy). He is the Founder and Director of SolArise, a networking and media initiative that seeks to catalyze the rapid deployment of community solar as a key element in California's pioneering mission to power its economy and society on 100% renewable energy in all sectors within 20-25 years. SolArise advocates for innovative locally implemented strategies combining new technologies that enable microgrids to efficiently, generate, store and share locally generated energy while reducing the need to maintain extensive, expensive and potentially hazardous transmission lines. Through financial instruments like solar shares issued by an energy cooperative, local residents and others will be able to invest in and own their own sources of energy production. This strategy is designed to strengthen three core elements of social capital under grave threat in our current political climate -- democracy, community, and resilience. Mark Sommer is a published author and long-time syndicated radio host and newspaper columnist focusing on practical innovations for social benefit. He was an early adopter of renewable energy, deploying the first publicly available solar panels and battery storage (primitive microgrids) and a self-built waterwheel on his and his wife's off-the-grid homestead in Humboldt County beginning in 1979. Their proto-microgrid is still in operation today, nearly 40 years later.


Greg Thomson

Greg Thomson Featuring a team including the Clean Coalition, local leaders, Sonoma Clean Power, and PG&E, Greg helped establish the North Bay Community Resilience Initiative, developing Community Microgrid and resilience features for areas impacted by the recent wildfires. He co-authored three winning California Energy Commission grant proposals featuring partnerships with technology providers, major utility PG&E, the California ISO, and Community Choice Energy leader Marin Clean Energy. These projects serve as models for deploying community-based clean energy solutions at scale for the State of California and beyond. Mr. Thomson also won a New York Prize Community Microgrid grant award while contributing substantially to the California Public Utility Commission ruling to increase utility support for local clean energy and other distributed energy resources. Greg is also an accomplished executive and consultant with success across the technology, software, and advanced energy industries as well as a recipient of multiple U.S. patents.


Cheryl Vaughn

Cheryl Vaughn, Executive Director of Solar Richmond. A Richmond native with deep family roots, Cheryl served on the Solar Richmond board for three years and brings more than 20 years of operational expertise to the organization. She is a graduate of Holy Names University and received nonprofit management training from Cal State East Bay.

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North Berkeley

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Berkeley, CA 94708

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