It’s been well-documented that climate change doesn’t affect all communities equally, and Newark, NJ is a perfect case study for the connection between climate education and mitigation, and environmental justice. To help these communities get the most out of the clean energy transition, Solar One is partnering with the City of Newark’s Office of Sustainability to launch a new, two-year $500,000 initiative that combines classroom, career, and community learning about climate, and solar charging systems, with solutions for Newark communities most affected by severe storms. 

The Newark Resilient Solar Initiative, funded by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Environmental Literacy Program, focuses on youth-led community education and the construction and deployment of small-scale solar power generation and storage systems to provide supplemental power to local residents when the electrical grid is down.

In recent years, thousands of Essex County homes, schools, and businesses confronted major power outages and faced costly property damage following severe flooding caused by historic cyclones like Superstorm Sandy, Hurricanes Ida and Irene, and Tropical Storm Isaias.

”The damage Newark has withstood from four severe weather incidents in the last 10 years is proof enough that we need to be on the cutting edge of climate change mitigation and proactive protective measures,” said City of Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “This initiative puts the city’s future right into the hands of our youth, providing them with environmental literacy and the skills to build sustainability not only into their neighborhoods, but also into a solid career at the vanguard of the new green economy.”

The initiative began in October 2022 with hands-on three-week training sessions in climate literacy and basic solar installation at three Newark public high schools: Shabazz, Barringer, and Technology. It is slated to reach 800 students and provide professional development training for nine Newark Public School teachers during the 24-month grant.

Solar One is also partnering with Dimension Renewable Energy to support the program and provide participating students with additional opportunities for internships in the solar industry connected with the NJ Board of Public Utilities Community Solar program.

A Resilient Communities Coordinator – Newark neighborhood leader and volunteer Audris B. Torres – was hired March 1 to work within the Newark Office of Sustainability to implement the initiative’s goals. Torres will convene an advisory committee of local stakeholders – community members, CBO partners, and environmental justice leaders – who will guide project activities including the siting locations for the solar charging systems.

The Newark Resilient Solar Initiative aims to:
● Provide professional green energy learning opportunities for high school students and
educators from Newark Public Schools
● Provide interaction with local decision-makers and guidance from educators to gain
exposure on current and future careers in environmental sectors
● Provide opportunities for students to participate in a paid internship program

“The training responds to students’ need for high-quality technical and work-based learning opportunities in high schools,” said Stephen Levin, CEO of Solar One and a former New York City Councilmember. “We’re focusing our community education efforts around climate resilience for those in low-income, predominantly Black and Latino communities in Newark that are highly vulnerable to flooding,” he said.

You can read the full press release here.