Community Colleges and Climate Solutions

At the recent National Council for Science and the Environment and Project Drawdown Conference, theme explored the role community colleges can play in climate solutions. The “Living Labs Network” is exemplary of how partnerships across an ecological area such as Lake Superior can produce creative solutions in which professors and students conduct research and gain valuable experience.

Identifying innovative solutions at the intersection of water, food, land, climate, energy, and individual and community well-being

Kathryn Milun described a Solar Commons project at the conference. Start at 14 min. 

Focusing on a solar commons is a good way to understand how solutions can be worked out in a region like that around Lake Superior.

“Solar Commons are solar energy systems that use community trust-ownership to deliver commonwealth benefits to low-income communities. Mobilizing the cultural history of community land trusts and the creative potential of trust law as a backdrop, Solar Commons integrates legal, technological and financial capacities in building renewable energy systems for and with low income communities to share the social and ecological benefits it can provide.

“In 2017, the decision was made to leave the public right-of-way and locate Solar Commons on lands owned privately by nonprofits serving low-income communities.  Suddenly enthusiastic nonprofits were offering to be Solar Commons trustees and solar electricity purchasers.  The Solar Commons thus continued as the community-engaged, academic research project of the anthropologist, Kathryn Milun, who gathered a research team and set out to build Solar Commons prototypes and share best practices with a broader public:  The first actually existing Solar Commons prototype was built behind-the-meter in Tucson, Arizona in 2018 with a gift of 14.5 kW solar panels on the roof of the Dunbar School .  The monetary savings on the Dunbar Coalitions’ electric bill are placed in trust with a local community development finance institution which delivers the money to the trust’s beneficiary, the Tucson Urban League’s low-income household weatherization and energy assistance programs;  a second Solar Commons prototype is being designed in-front-of-the-meter in partnership with Greenway Solar in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This Solar Commons 2.0 will test the Solar Commons concept in a 500kW, third party owned, subscription-based community solar [solar garden] model.  It will send monetary benefits into local, teen peer journalism programs in the historically underserved, African-American community of North Minneapolis.”

See a very good description and examples of how communities are using the old commons law rules to create collaborative and regenerative systems to meet social and business needs.