The first US Solar Commons is a small (14.5kW) solar array, hosted by the Dunbar Pavillon, and bringing about $3,000 a year for twenty years to its community trust fund. SC1.0 mitigates climate change by reducing Co2 emissions by 237 metric tons over its lifetime. SC1.0’s low-income community beneficiary is in Tucson’s Garden District neighborhood which serves a significant portion of the city’s African American, Hispanic/Latino and refugee residents. A Solar Commons mural on a central Garden District meeting place, the schoolyard of Wright Elementary School, tells the story of solar energy embedded in other gathering and sharing practices showing reciprocity and obligation among humans and their sources of life. The mural stands as the community’s “deed of equitable title” to the sun’s common wealth.
The Tucson Solar Commons is the first US Solar Commons! A co-creation of the Solar Commons Project research team, the Dunbar School, and our Arizona funders. As a living lab, SC1.0 demonstrated that funders and community partners supported the project of combining climate mitigation and social equity work; grid interconnection required no special policy; trust relationships created with legal agreements could provide 20 years of funding across town to a program serving low-income Tucson residents. SCP researchers have collected data from the first two years of operation in order to refine a dashboard with local governance function for community members. SC1.0 was a finalist in the US DoE Solar In Your Community Challenge and is a US Greenbuild Legacy Project for Arizona.
The Dunbar School (established in 1912) was Tucson’s first and only segregated school. In 1995, a local group called the Dunbar Coalition, Inc. took over the property to create a community center whose mission is “to increase awareness and understanding of the historic and cultural impact of people of African descent; to serve as a gathering place for diverse voices and cultures to dialogue about the past and create vision and direction for a more unified future”. The school now hosts the Dunbar Barber Academy and other local businesses and serves as the site for the Dunbar/Spring neighborhood’s community garden. In 2017, the Dunbar Coalition agreed to host the US’s first “Solar Commons.” With Pyramid Federal Credit Union, a local community development financial institution, the Dunbar School is demonstrating how, for twenty years, to create community trust ownership of a donated 14.5 kW solar array to produce savings (at $0.14/kWh) on Dunbar’s net metered electric bill that will: pay for its own insurance, technical repairs and administration costs; provide an income stream to a Solar Commons escrow account held in trust by Pyramid CFU; and fund low-income housing weatherization for residents in the Garden District, a historically underserved area of the city. The Dunbar Coalition and the Tucson Urban League are demonstrating how to split energy ownership between the owner of the solar technology’s legal title (Dunbar School) and the owner of the sun’s energy benefits (Tucson Urban League).
In October 2018 SC1.0 was interconnected to the grid of Tucson Electric Power.
SC 1.0 Funders
- Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust
- University of Phoenix Foundation
- US Green Building Council Arizona
- On the Commons; a.k.a. Green Environmental Building Center
SC 1.0 Installers
SC 1.0 Legal Team
- Pilar Thomas
- Tim Walsh
- Maria Pitner
- Kathryn Milun
- Jeannie Oliver
- Vermont Law School Energy Clinic