A bevy of environmentally-focused nonprofits is about to help two other nonprofits, Memphis Rox and One Family Memphis, by donating the cash that will help install a 20-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the Soulsville climbing gym.
The move to add solar to the roof of the gym could cut the electric bill at Memphis Rox by 20%, no small thing for the large climbing gym on McLemore Avenue.
The grant to Memphis Rox is coming from the Honnold Foundation, a Utah-based nonprofit founded by rock-climber Alex Honnold, that gives grants that help nonprofits across the country build out solar installations to be more sustainable and reduce their electric bills.
“Putting solar on …for the nonprofit themselves can really help free up some of those funds, and give them a little more flexibility so they can do things like… provide more services to the community that they are so vital to,” Kate Trujillo, the director of operations for the Honnold Foundation, said in an interview.
The solar panels on Memphis Rox’s roof could be more than just renewable energy —saving the nonprofit cash on its utility bill. It could also be an example of how Memphis, and South Memphis in particular, can reduce its energy burden — the percentage of someone’s income they spend on utilities.
If Memphis Rox can reduce its electric bill, that frees up funds and the percentage of its revenue it needs to spend on electricity. The same goes for people, Stephen Smith, the executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy noted in an interview. Smith sees solar installations on homes as a means of reducing energy burdens for Memphis residents.
“That sort of parable in the Bible about you can give somebody a fish or you can teach somebody [to] fish, and solar is like the gift that keeps giving because every year they’re saving money,” Smith said.
Smith noted that portions of South Memphis, according to his nonprofit’s analysis, pay more than 6% of their income on utilities. Further solar investments in Memphis, whether through Memphis, Light, Gas and Water outside of the Tennessee Valley Authority or within it.
“It’s really that gift that just keeps giving,” Smith said.
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For One Family Memphis, the fundraising arm of Memphis Rox, the installation is about raising awareness of solar and the need to reduce energy burdens.
“This solar install is about elevating the local conversation on environmental inequity, leading the way in alleviating the financial barriers many Memphians face, and advocating for the environment,” Sarah Grai, director of One Family Memphis, said. “By supporting Memphis Rox and the Soulsville community, the Honnold Foundation is proving yet again that we climb higher when we climb together.”
Samuel Hardiman covers Memphis city government and politic for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman.