Residents, businesses in Black communities struggle to afford transition to green energy technologies
The dedicated congregation of the historic Bright Light Baptist Church in Brownsville, Brooklyn never wavered in their conviction throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but they did have a different issue: the heating.
Pastor Eddie Karim, who came to Bright Light two years ago, streamed virtual Sunday morning service this past winter from the lower level dining hall instead of the upper level main sanctuary. It was just too cold because of an extremely old oil-based heating system with a 1,300 gallon tank that is too big, yet woefully inefficient.
“We turned it into a winter chapel,” Pastor Karim said about the dining hall. “It gets warmer down here.”
The system costs the church thousands of dollars every winter season, and still leaves a chill in the air.
“Still, with all that, it still don’t get enough heat,” Pastor Karim said.
It’s a problem faced by houses of worship, and countless homes in under-served communities, including Brownsville.
Brooklyn native Donnel Baird, CEO of the startup BlocPower, is doing something about it at Bright Light.
“Far, far too many people in Black and Brown communities, and certain low-income white communities, have been left behind economically,” Baird said. “So they haven’t been able to afford the initial high prices of some of these green energy technologies. We’re working with our global manufactures to bring those prices down. We want people to not have all their money going out to these utility bills, and wasting payments for fossil fuels.”
BlocPower has already retrofitted every single one of the church’s lights with high efficiency LEDs.
The company is on track to help Bright Light replace its entire HVAC system by this fall.
“We’re gonna rip out that old, oil guzzling system, and replace it with a modern, smart, healthy system,” Baird said. “We’re going to save that church money. We negotiate the pricing discounts with the manufacturer, with the construction company, with the banks: we’re a trusted party that brings all people to the table, and tries to get to a deal that’s gonna work for everyone.”
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