Clean energy doesn’t grow on trees. Steph Speirs plants community solar gardens.
Clean energy doesn’t grow on trees.
Steph Speirs plants community solar gardens.
Steph Speirs thinks about solar the way one might think about a community garden. Why go through the trouble of planting panels on your roof when you could instead plug into a shared neighborhood resource? Through her company, called Solstice, Speirs and cofounder Steve Moilanen roll out community solar gardens that allow people who don’t own their properties — or who don’t have the means or interest in installing a home setup — to tap into a local solar project and save a few bucks on electricity.
Solstice identifies locations for new community projects, works with local developers to arrange financing and installation, and ensures subscribers see credits on their electricity bills. Speirs’ company has earned seed funding from Echoing Green, a social entrepreneurship fellowship, and was recently picked for the selective Techstars startup accelerator. Solstice currently has solar gardens scattered around Massachusetts and intends to expand nationwide.
[pullquote share=”true” hashtag=”Grist50″ ]“Solar cannot truly go mainstream until access to it is democratized.” [/pullquote]
Community solar isn’t a new idea, but Speirs and her team are working hard to make it more accessible. Example: In 2015, the First Parish Unitarian Church in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, couldn’t install panels on its roof because of its status as a historic building. Last year, the church leadership became aware of Solstice and its existing community solar program in Bridgewater. The congregation voted to plug into the project, thus saving 10 percent on its electricity bill and putting its sustainable values into practice. Better yet, individual parishioners followed the church’s lead and signed up, too. “We’re proud that these are typical stories at Solstice,” Speirs says.
The world feels pretty broken right now. That’s why we need Fixers — bold problem solvers working toward a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck. For our annual list of emerging green leaders, Grist brings you 50 innovators with fresh, forward-thinking solutions to some of humanity's biggest challenges. Credits
Photo of Steph Speirs: Solstice
- Andrew Simon, Amelia Urry
- Mignon Khargie, Amelia Bates
- Nathan Letsinger
- Project Manager
- Matt Grisafi
- Social Media
- Cody Permenter
- Video Producer
- Daniel Penner
- Executive Editor
- Scott Dodd
- Clayton Aldern Ted Alvarez Eve Andrews Vishakha Darbha Sabrina Imbler Nathanael Johnson Samantha Larson Katie Mast Amy McDermott Emma Foehringer Merchant Caroline Saunders Darby Minow Smith Katharine Wroth Kate Yoder
Meet All The Fixers
This Brooklynite retrofits cities.
This politician fights for polluted communities.
Grist Member pick
This clothing expert revives dead threads.
This CEO provides clean energy for any budget.
This innovator is stitching together a clothing movement.
Van Jones' pick
This entrepreneur is diversifying cleantech.
This climate organizer works on the front lines in Miami.
Leilani Münter's pick
This sustainability director drives change in Orlando.
This urban farmer grows in tight spaces.
This politician reps bipartisan climate action.
Tom Colicchio's pick
This farmer uses AI for efficiency.
Al Gore's pick
This civil rights activist takes on the South's sewage problem.
This housing advocate is rebuilding Buffalo.
This comedian spotlights indigenous rights.
This farmer champions efficiency.
This startup founder built a Fitbit for the planet.
This policy wonk shows state leadership on solar.
This lawyer stands with indigenous activists.
Grist Member pick
This developer built an app for food waste.
This young farmer is saving soil.
L.A. Youth Groups
These teens sued for environmental justice.
This farmer gives vets a chance to grow.
This entrepreneur helps the solar industry compete.
This advocate connects green Latinos.
This scientist brings social justice to her field.
This teenager gives the youngest generation a voice.
This organizer fights for safer waste disposal.
This founder empowers people to choose renewables.
This councilwoman keeps Boise booming.
This airline exec is greening travel.
This food advocate coaches up chefs.
This Bronx community organizer is spreading the wealth.
This weather forecaster shames deniers.
This chef takes a kitchen sink approach to food waste.
This civil servant cooks up smart food policy.
This architect designs better neighborhoods.
Avital Shavit and Rubina Ghazarian
These transportation gurus coax Angelenos onto bikes.
This lawyer connects justice and the environment.
Trisha Shrum and Jill Kubit
These mothers bring the future into the present.
This physicist is shaping energy policy.
This scientist connects investors to new food tech.
This CEO plants community solar gardens.
This professional trains people for solar jobs.
Cameron Russell's pick
Camila Thorndike and Page Atcheson
These activists want carbon polluters to pay.
This organizer is uniting millennials.
This New Yorker champions affordable housing.
This entrepreneur is making a better burger.
Sean A. Watkins
This storyteller puts people first.
This young climate activist is demanding more.
This strategist trains clean energy leaders.