Kristal Hansley is the CEO and founder of WeSolar, Inc., and the first Black woman founder in the community solar industry. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member

WeSolar, Inc. (WeSolar) in collaboration with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) announced a new partnership on Thursday to build a solar farm in Baltimore City that will provide power to UMMS facilities and city residents. 

UMMS will pay $10,000 per month for up to 18 months to help with construction costs for the farm, which is projected to generate eight megawatts of energy. The location of the solar farm is still being determined. 

The announcement came just a day before Earth Day and at a time where low-income households are subject to significantly higher energy burdens than their counterparts. 

“This is what equity in the environmental health space looks like,” said Kristal Hansley, founder and CEO of WeSolar. “This is the model, so for people that are looking for solutions to address energy burden and how larger institutions can leverage their buying power and meet their renewable energy goals, this is the example for that. I’m very proud to stand next to the University of Maryland Medical Center.” 

Of all racial groups across the nation, African Americans are most likely to experience energy insecurity, or the inability to adequately meet household energy needs. While the median energy cost for White households is on average 3.3 percent of their household income, energy costs are 5.4 percent of Black household income. 

Kristal Hansley is the CEO and founder of WeSolar, Inc., and the first Black woman founder in the community solar industry. (Courtesy Photo)

In Baltimore, 34 percent of Black households experience high energy burdens, which is considered to be above 6 percent. The city’s median energy burden for low-income households, which is 10.5 percent, also ranks higher than other major U.S. cities, like Boston, Philadelphia and New York. 

Hansley launched WeSolar in 2020 to provide under-resourced communities with affordable access to local community solar and to help commercial properties improve their energy efficiency. The establishment of the company made Hansley the first Black woman founder in the U.S. community solar industry.   

Because WeSolar is a community solar company, consumers do not face common barriers to solar energy adoption, like installation costs. Instead, they can purchase shared solar from a local project, which is then transferred back into the grid to power homes. 

Consumers consequently receive renewable energy credits that save them money. WeSolar’s goal is to reduce the bills of low-to-moderate-income households by at least 25 percent. 

“It’s very important that we continue to build on technologies like community solar because it creates the access that marginalized communities do not have,” said Hansley. “There are barriers that are associated with traditional rooftop solar, and it leaves a lot of people out of that just transition. This is really critical for those communities to now be a part of the change.”

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