Progress Village becomes Florida’s first Black community to build solar microgrid

From Left- David Carmena, Rev. Jerry Nealy, Twanda Bradley, Walter L Smith II, Marta, Pearson, Pastor Lennox Zamore. By: Josh Holton (9/27/23)

In Eastern Hillsborough County, Progress Village is claiming the title of the first Black community in Florida to adopt a solar microgrid. A coalition of community leaders met yesterday at Simmon’s-Bowers Park to unveil the first phase of their program to combat the energy burden for frontline communities.

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on the health of Black residents and low-income in the US. When David Carmena of Carmena Enterprises decided he would take on the task of offering weatherization to local residents, he also wanted to address another disparity, by offering opportunities to formerly convicted persons.

“Project Green strike was 100% use of formerly incarcerated individuals. And so what we did is we provide weatherization training, and then we provide them on the job training as well as advanced training while he was on the job. And then we paid him a living wage”

Project Green Strike plans to confront climate resiliency and economic opportunities with a one-two-punch. Pastor Lennox Zamore is with Exciting Central Tampa church said taking care of the environment is central to his faith.

“Assisting people with Mercy Ministries is way important to me. But God has also given us a responsibility to maintain this earth, and to do so in the most responsible way. And I think it is the heart of what we are and who we are.”

Marta Pearson is with PowerNET of Tampa Bay, and they are helping with providing resiliency for returning citizens by giving them skills to secure green jobs and housing.

“…to learn how to make better decisions, how to manage better relationships, so that they have the support of their family. They build a community of friends. They build a community of professionals, who support them, guide them, they learn to listen to them, put into action, what they learn and become successful.”

Reverend Jerry Gilem Nealey is with the Black Farmer’s Collaborative Inc. He’s been working for the Department of Energy for the last 18 months to work on three pilot projects, including putting solar power on houses of worship, combining solar projects with agriculture, and also developing community greenhouses with the help of historically Black colleges like FAMU.

“This planet is having some problems. And we see evidence of it with all of the announcements of the catastrophes, that of our current news. And so we have some contribution to give. African Americans in this country have always contributed and on this planet, we’ve always contributed. So we come into the front. This is a problem that needs to be corrected, and so we’re going to offer some leadership. We’re not going to ask you what we should do about it. What we’re going to do is demonstrate in an undeniable way, that this is the pathway forward. That’s in our best interest.”

Walter L Smith II is the host of WMNF’s The Sunday Forum, and helped organize Project Green Strike with the Tampa Bay Disaster Resiliency Initiative. He says helping these first three homeowners is a great first step toward sustainable and equitable clean energy solutions.

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