The Oasis of Hope Center is a non-profit community center in the historic Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma. The Center has been providing vital services to the neighborhood’s youth for 18 years. As a faith-based non-profit, the Center is “firmly dedicated to serving our community with integrity, while engaging our neighborhood families. We believe in education, mentoring, providing health services, counseling, and youth crisis prevention resources [to] building nurturing relationships…that will foster individual growth.” Their programs include a daycare, afterschool activities, and fun events to engage children and their families.
Given their focus on education and inspiration to the Tacoma Public Utilities community, the Oasis of Hope wanted to demonstrate the value of renewable energy and showcase the feasibility of projects like this in the Hilltop neighborhood. Adding a system like this also made sense for their operations, as it would help offset the Oasis of Hope’s energy costs, freeing up more of the Center’s resources for their programs and services.
While the Oasis of Hope Center was ready and willing to begin work on the project, as a non-profit they needed financial and technical assistance to make their dream a reality. The Evergreen Options grant is funded by power customers who are Evergreen Options program participants and want to invest in renewable energy generation in our region. Funds are used to purchase and support renewable energy. This grant provided the Center with $50,000 toward their project. Spark Northwest, another non-profit whose mission is “partner[ing] with communities to build an equitable clean energy future” supplied additional funds and project management assistance. The project was installed by Sphere Solar Energy, a minority owned business enterprise and a union-signatory electrical contractor.
Executive Director of the Oasis of Hope Center, Tim Thomas, explained the importance of the solar panel installation.
“The community here [Hilltop] doesn’t have a lot of education or experience with renewable energy. This installation will spark conversations; people will ask, ‘What is that on your roof?’ and we will be able to talk about the importance of renewable energy, and the careers available to young people in renewable energy.”
Edwin Wanji, founder and CEO of Sphere Solar Energy, echoed the importance of demonstrating the potential of renewable energy careers to youth, particularly in historically disadvantaged communities like Hilltop.
“There are good paying jobs in renewable energy,” Wanji said, “The sector is going to continue to grow and provide young people with good, union jobs for years to come.”
Chris Robinson, general manager and superintendent of Power reflected on the project.
“This is a substantial solar project that will significantly reduce The Oasis of Hope Center’s operating costs so they can use the savings for the wonderful things they do here.”
The utility believes in partnering with customers to reduce their energy use, which helps ensure our region’s energy needs are met into the future. Programs like Evergreen Options present an important opportunity to keep development and renewable energy projects local, benefiting other Power customers who provide services to the community.