AIRE’s core mission is to help nonprofit organizations and community-minded people develop solar projects at their schools, shelters, food systems, houses of worship, and other important public places. And, not just put solar up for show, mind you; our design principle is to push the benefits of ownership and control to that “community” and not entirely to a profit extracting interest. That’s a serious exercise in optimization. Virtually every project we’ve had a hand in developing has been different. Unfortunately, there are no universal micro-variables (currently) that make developing and financing solar projects simple. It’s both difficult and exciting work helping a group’s solar vision come into being. We see it as cooperative. Ideally, we share knowledge freely, co-design and collaborate to develop solar and to reveal to folks the inner workings of the dominant energy system (laws, regulations, politics, economics, etc.). In other words, we want to develop solar and shared knowledge. That’s a heavy lift that can, at times, be discouraging.
But we stick with it because– and this is the encouraging part– the strong grassroots demand for solar compels us. We know that those trying to solarize their organizations need a wayfinder and not a consultant looking to profit. We are constantly in contact with organizations looking for “how to” information, and not just from our North Carolina region, but from distant places too. What’s so important about this, and why is it encouraging? It’s an important indicator.
While the well-funded, top-down corporate lobbying outfits, investor-owned utilities and astroturf sites constantly try to mislead the public and repress solar in favor of profit-seeking, dirty, deadly fossil fuel electricity, the demand for solar that we experience is bubbling up everywhere thanks to devoted regular folk who are paying attention, see urgent need, and are taking action. This “bottom-up” work being done by so many adds up. It helps build the movement that says WE all the demand the benefits clean, locally-produced renewable energy, and WE want a future for our children. That’s what democracy looks like.