Resilient Urban Neighborhoods +
Green Justice Coalition (RUN-GJC)

Since 2016, Green Justice Coalition (GJC) members Clean Water Action, GreenRoots Inc. and the Chinese Progressive Association have worked alongside ResilientUrban Neighborhoods (RUN) to bring microgrids to Chelsea and Boston’s Chinatown. RUN is a collaboration between clean energy technical organizations Climable.org, Clean Energy Solutions, Inc., Peregrine Energy Group, and Climate Action Business Association. Driven by community involvement, investment, and local government support, these microgrids will have lasting, positive effects on local residents and economies. The team believes that this work will not just provide a layer of energy independence, but also bring residents together. For more info, see the intro to the RUN-GJC community microgrid model below or contact lee@massclu.org 

Most of us don’t think about our electricity supply when everything is running as planned. It’s only when we experience a power outage that we might start to consider the impacts of not having lights, air conditioning, refrigeration, or wi-fi among other things. A newer technology that is able to reliably provide electricity during an outage is a microgrid. And RUN-GJC has worked to develop a microgrid that is different from all the rest; we think it is this uniqueness that makes our model better-suited to handle the challenges our power grid faces as a result of the climate crisis.

The main feature that differentiates us from other multi-user microgrids: community leadership! Neighborhood organizations lead the effort. Putting local challenges and existing campaigns first, the RUN-GJC microgrid team makes a plan that is responsive to the needs of the community. Grassroots partners recruit customers by first identifying a full range of residential, municipal and commercial buildings plus critical facilities as possible participants. From that pool, the team builds trust with those buildings and their residents, gathering the info needed for a robust design. The next steps include  getting financial support and contracting with builders; the values of the community are at the front and center of that discussion. For every step of the process, the community leaders are also the project leaders, ensuring the design for each neighborhood incorporates aspects that are needed for that locale.

Another feature that sets us apart from a traditional microgrid is our “distributed” approach. Our microgrid is not limited to buildings that share lot lines. Any building within Chelsea or Chinatown is a potential participant. Our model ensures residents the ability to prosper in place during an emergency when evacuation is not an option. By installing energy efficiency measures, clean generation including solar, and battery storage for backup, each location becomes its own island when the grid is down. The combination of these assets during normal times is what makes this set of facilities a microgrid. Through cloud-based software, the generation and use of battery storage are optimized to benefit from market revenues when possible. Through this distributed approach, the microgrid can grow within its community as more folks become familiar with it. The model is flexible enough to be replicated anywhere, since local attributes are the driving force and would be considered first in any project.