Habitat for Humanity Lake County, in partnership with leading companies and the local community, have come together to help build a new home for a single mother of four in Waukegan, a suburb north of Chicago. The project is part of Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build initiative, and this is the first U.S Women Build project in the organization’s 28-year history that will include the installation of solar panels that will produce clean renewable energy. The solar panels will be installed on September 21st at 10 Washington Terrace in Waukegan at 9am.
The Sun Company, the U.S.’s first solely woman-owned national energy company, donated the solar panels, inverter and installation equipment. The contribution showcases solar power as a more affordable energy solution for lower-income families hoping to reduce their utility bills, and it has already inspired the family receiving the home to consider careers in renewable energy and other traditionally male-dominated professions.
“Electricity is a necessity. But energy costs in certain parts of the country make housing unaffordable, particularly for working-class and lower-income families,” explained Joley Michaelson, CEO of The Sun Company. “At The Sun Company, we make housing more affordable by making electricity more affordable. Through innovative renewable energy products and services, like our LIFE program, we help make electricity accessible and affordable while paving the long road back to a healthy climate.”
“The solar panels dovetail with our goal to build strength, stability, self-reliance and shelter in local communities,” added Debbie Murphy, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Lake County. “Energy-use is a large part of every homeowner’s monthly payment, and this will help them for years to come.”
Women Build events provide opportunities for women to take proactive steps in serving their communities and learning new professional skills. A team featuring local volunteers and family members started construction on the Waukegan-based home in May. Rethink Electric is heading up the solar installation with volunteers throughout their company as well as supplying the material, labor and expertise to make this project successful. The solar installation taking place in mid-September will provide the community with valuable experience in one of the fastest-growing tech fields. The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), one of the most significant energy bills ever to pass the Illinois General Assembly, makes renewable energy an integral part of the state’s future, and this Women Build event highlights the demand for expanding solar training programs to additional areas north of Chicago. The passing of the FEJA has grown Rethink Electric from 6 employees to 70 in the past year and is now the largest solar installation company in Illinois. Renewable energy is a great path forward to a well-paying career and working for the greater good of humanity.
Tanya Duffie, the single mother receiving the home, learned about solar technology from the Women Build project, and she and her son are now interested in Illinois’ new solar training, but all of the programs are currently not geographically accessible. For the underserved communities north of Chicago, training currently requires three-hour round-trip commutes. The College of Lake County, City of Waukegan and Elevate Energy are working to design a new training program for the area that will ultimately benefit both the planet and the community.
“Solar is a great solution not only for energy generation, but it is also making a difference with poverty,” explained Lisa Albrecht of All Bright Solar who helped design and coordinate the project. “In 10 years, the growth of implementation of the solar industry has grown 5,000 times globally and in the US over 240,000 people are employed in the solar industry. And thanks to FEJA, we have had 36 percent job growth in Illinois in the past two years alone.”
In addition to The Sun Company and Habitat for Humanity Lake County, other companies involved in the Women Build project include All Bright Solar, Elevate Energy, Go Green Wilmette, Carmaine Means, Rethink Electric and The Kindling Group.
“This definitely has brought us closer together as a family,” says Tanya Duffie about the Women Build project. “By it being our own house, it’s even better. We’ve learned a lot by helping build our own home. This has taught us what partnership is about. It has been a great experience for us as a family to be able to do this.”