How a Solar Nonprofit is Bringing Clean Energy and Jobs to North Minneapolis?


North Minneapolis is a historically marginalized community that has faced many challenges, including racial disparities, poverty, and environmental injustice. But a solar nonprofit called Solstar is trying to change that by bringing clean energy and jobs to the area.



Solstar’s Mission and Model

Solstar was founded in 2021 by Ralph Jacobson, a retired solar entrepreneur who wanted to use his experience and network to help lower-income homeowners access the benefits of solar power. He partnered with Kristel Porter, a community activist, and J.T. Thomas, a black-owned solar contractor, to form a collective effort for clean energy in North Minneapolis.

Solstar’s model is simple: it matches socially conscious investors with low- or moderate-income homeowners who are interested in having solar panels on their roofs. The investors provide the upfront capital for the installations and receive a modest return from the tax credits and depreciation. The homeowners pay nothing and immediately enjoy a lower monthly electricity bill.

Solstar also trains and employs local students and residents to help with the installations, creating green jobs and skills in the community. Solstar handles all the paperwork and applications for the available incentives, such as the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program and the Solar Rewards Program.

Solstar’s Impact and Challenges

So far, Solstar has completed ten projects in North Minneapolis and expects to reach 24 by the end of the year. One of the homeowners who benefited from Solstar’s program is Jacques Beech, who saw his electric bill drop by around $100 a month after installing solar panels on his 2,700-square-foot ranch home. “It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Solstar’s impact goes beyond saving money and reducing carbon emissions. It also empowers the community to take ownership of their energy future and creates a sense of pride and hope. “It’s beautiful to see solar panels on these houses,” Porter said. “It shows that we care about our environment, our health, and our children.”

However, Solstar’s work is not without challenges. The nonprofit initially wanted to finish 24 projects in its first two years but faced some difficulties in managing investors, timing projects around incentives, convincing skeptical homeowners, and keeping trainees employed. Solstar’s founders admit that the process has been harder than expected and requires patience and perseverance.

Solstar’s Future and Vision

Despite the obstacles, Solstar is optimistic about its future and vision. The nonprofit plans to expand its reach and scale in North Minneapolis and eventually replicate its model in other communities that need it. Solstar also hopes to inspire more people to invest in solar and more homeowners to go solar.

Solstar’s ultimate goal is to make solar accessible and affordable for everyone, especially those who have been historically excluded from the benefits of clean energy. By doing so, Solstar is providing a service and creating a movement. “We’re not just installing solar panels; we’re installing solar power,” Jacobson said.

By Andrea Wilson

Andrea Wilson is a talented junior content and news writer at Scope Sweep. With a passion for writing and a dedication to delivering high-quality content, Andrea has quickly established herself as a valuable contributor to the team. Graduating from the prestigious University of Sydney, she brings a strong academic foundation and a keen eye for detail to her work. Andrea's articles cover a wide range of topics, from breaking news to informative features, ensuring that readers are well-informed and engaged. With her ability to research and present information in a clear and concise manner, Andrea Wilson is committed to providing readers with accurate and captivating content. Stay connected and up-to-date with Andrea's compelling articles on Scope Sweep

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