Invenergy Blog: January 23, 2023
Making a Difference Together: 2022 Invenergy Impact Partners
Supporting the communities where we live, work and operate has always been ingrained in everything we do at Invenergy. In fact, before our projects are even constructed, our teams connect with local representatives to support events and causes that mean the most to communities where we develop. After construction, we continue to invest by allocating Invenergy Impact funds that our operating sites donate to local nonprofit organizations each year.
In 2022, we have been proud to build on intentional partnerships with several nonprofit organizations that reflect the core principles of our business and the role we want to play in building a sustainable world. We worked with our Invenergy Impact Partners to create numerous events and engaging programming that built on our common goals. Read on to learn more about what we have accomplished with our partners this year.
Chicago Scholars’ mission is to uniquely select, train and mentor academically ambitious students from under-resourced communities to complete college and become the next generation of leaders in the city. Over the course of a seven-year period, Chicago Scholars has helped students in three phases of their academic development: college access, college success and college to careers. Throughout the program, students learn how to navigate the college admissions process, self-advocacy and networking skills, career development training and more.
With a common goal to support the next generation of leaders, this year Invenergy and the Chicago Scholars Foundation established the Invenergy Scholarship. Two Chicago Scholars students who are attending a four-year college or university with an interest in a career in renewable energy received the scholarships. In April, we also sponsored Chicago Scholars’ Vibrant Green Futures mainstage event for the second year. At the event, Rhonda Jones, Invenergy’s vice president of regulatory compliance, discussed how the clean energy industry can diversify its leadership ranks.
This summer we also welcomed Sabine Ramirez, an undergrad at Purdue University pursuing an engineering degree, to our intern class. Sabine is part of the Chicago Scholar’s EMERGE internship program. As an industry partner of that program, we hosted an EMERGE Growth Lab in July at our Chicago office. During this event, college students networked with various teams across the organization and learned from a panel of our clean energy industry experts.
Chicago Urban League (CUL) works to achieve equity for Black families and communities through social and economic empowerment. Their programs are designed to support and strengthen the Chicago community by helping people find jobs, secure affordable housing, advance education, and grow businesses. We believe innovation is driven by diverse ideas and perspectives and Invenergy is happy to support CUL’s equitable programming in the community that houses our headquarters and our largest concentration of employees.
One of our primary engagements with CUL in 2022 was through their IMPACT program, an initiative that strives to narrow racial disparities in leadership positions by developing and supporting emerging Black leaders. This nine-month program features a cohort of 40 Black professionals who have demonstrated a strong track record of civil and professional leadership in their field. For the 2022/2023 program, Invenergy proudly sponsored two program participants, one from an external organization and one current Invenergy employee – senior manager of contracts, Melissa Brinson.
In October, Invenergy and the Black and Brown @ Invenergy affinity group also co-hosted “Watts on the Menu: A Clean Energy Transition Networking Event” with CUL at our Chicago headquarters. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from state and federal government leaders as they discussed clean energy workforce development resources and contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses.
In 2010, Invenergy Founder and Chief Executive Officer Michael Polsky founded Evergreen Climate Innovations (formerly Clean Energy Trust) with Nick Pritzker to build a vibrant clean-tech ecosystem in the Midwest. Evergreen Climate Innovations provides capital and support to entrepreneurs and start-ups as a catalyst to bring critical climate technologies to market. Through its investment fund, Evergreen advances and expands access to innovation across the greater Midwest and fosters an ecosystem of investors, donors and collaborators. Evergreen created its 501vc seed fund to address the capital gap in early-stage climate tech funding. This unique investment model combines the activities of a seed fund with the legal structure of a non-profit organization, which allows Evergreen to bear a little more risk than the market and provide capital to entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of development.
We continued our partnership with Evergreen in 2022 by providing financial assistance in support of their programming, and in July we hosted Paul Siedler, managing director at Evergreen Climate Innovations, at our Chicago headquarters. He discussed the current state of climate tech innovation and venture capital funding trends to look out for.
GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build community-powered solutions to advance economic and environmental justice through renewable energy, especially in communities most impacted by underemployment, pollution and climate change.- From providing no-cost solar to qualified low-income households through its Energy for All initiative to its Installation Basics Training (IBT), a program designed to develop the skills that are most relevant to entry-level solar installation jobs, GRID is providing individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity with several ways to be a part of the clean energy transition.
This year, Invenergy provided financial support to participants in GRID’s Installation Basics Training program, an initiative designed to help individuals develop the relevant skills for entry-level solar installation jobs.
In August, our Denver team engaged with GRID Alternatives by volunteering to install a residential solar system. Sam Bernat, an analyst on Invenergy’s origination team, learned a lot from his experience with the program. “The GRID Alternatives team helped teach us how to install the racking, panels and wiring for the rooftop solar system. Their team was very knowledgeable, kind and passionate about giving back to the communities in our area,” he says. “It was great to spend this time with my coworkers and to get to know a team as driven as GRID Alternatives.”
KidWind is a non-profit organization that helps teachers and students creatively explore the science, technology and implications of a world powered by renewable energy. They provide free workshops and resources for teachers to incorporate renewable energy lessons into their curriculum, as well as their annual flagship educator training program, REcharge Academy. The culmination of these training programs and student instruction comes to fruition at regional and national competitions, known as KidWind Challenges. During these events, students present ideas for creating their own sources of wind and solar energy – taking them one step closer to choosing a career in the renewable energy sector.
Throughout the year, we worked with KidWind to host teacher trainings-near our development projects. In May, Invenergy sponsored a three-hour KidWind teacher training for 14 teachers from the Blue Ridge Unified School District and surrounding areas in Illinois. These educators learned more about Invenergy’s Sapphire Sky Energy Center (250 MW, Wind, IL) and participated in activities like the MacGyver Wind Challenge, where they competed to build a device with an attached weight from a bag of basic materials that could spin in the wind and lift off the ground.
In June, Invenergy’s renewables development team in Wisconsin hosted a teacher workshop at nearby Madison Area Technical College with a special focus on solar energy, including solar siting and installation processes. They also toured the college’s onsite solar installation labs and rooftop solar array, as well as Invenergy’s Badger Hollow I Energy Center (150 MW, Solar, WI). Invenergy also sponsored two Colorado teachers to attend the 2022 REcharge Academy, Kidwind’s flagship educator training program.
Through its exhibition work, the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) aims to inspire people to connect, care and commit to participating in building a dynamic and sustainable future for everyone. With this mission, MSI has been a longtime Invenergy Impact partner. MSI is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, and currently has over 35 experiences for the public to explore. The nonprofit also has education initiatives and learning experiences open to teachers, students and parents inside and outside the classroom.
Throughout the year, employees from Invenergy’s Chicago office participated in several volunteer events hosted by MSI. In February, employees participated in MSI’s Black Creativity Showcase, part of the museum’s Black Creativity programming during Black History Month. The mission of the program is to inspire African American children to pursue educational opportunities and careers in the fields of science, technology, medicine, and engineering, through programs and events at the museum. In June engineers from our Chicago office volunteered at “Engineer Your Future,” an interactive experience for students to explore careers in many fields of engineering. We also continued our participation in MSI’s Science Works, where students and parents can connect directly with STEM professionals and learn about their careers. Several STEM teams represented Invenergy at the event, such as renewable engineering, thermal asset management, renewable project management, renewable electrical engineering, and project controls.
Team Rubicon is a nonprofit disaster response organization that mobilizes veterans and civilian volunteers to help people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises in the U.S. and abroad. This year, we supported Team Rubicon International’s humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine and Invenergy employees raised more than $21,000 for to aid the country.
Invenergy also allocated funding to Team Rubicon disaster relief efforts in October after Hurricane Fiona touched down in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Ian landed in Florida weeks later. Both storms damaged homes, businesses, and infrastructure, but Team Rubicon immediately deployed volunteers to help with debris cleanup and home repair. Invenergy donated $15,000 to support Team Rubicon in both regions. We are proud to continue supporting their future community relief efforts.
While building clean energy facilities is an important way we invest in a sustainable future, preserving green spaces for the public to enjoy is essential to equitable access to nature. Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) mission is to create parks and protect land, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has created thousands of parks and protected millions of acres of public land and they remain committed to creating and protecting parks, trails, community forests, playgrounds, and public lands and making them available and welcoming to all. In support of this mission, Invenergy provided funding for a project in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood developed through TPL’s Equitable Communities Fund. This project will include the revitalization of the West Side Association for Community Action’s (WACA) basketball court. The project is part of an initiative called Under the Grid, an effort to transform a one-mile stretch of land beneath the CTA’s Pink Line into an art-filled green walkway. The basketball court is within a 10-minute walk of more than 9,000 residents, and it is also being developed as a community gathering spot.
To celebrate Earth Month in April, TPL staff joined us for a hybrid in-person and virtual event where they discussed TPL’s approach to data and partnerships for equitable park development. Invenergy employees watched staff demonstrate TPL’s web-based Decision Support Tool in real time and learned how it has made a difference in communities like Camden, Dallas, and Denver. This tool is used by agencies, community groups and citizens to prioritize conservation investments.
We began our relationship with Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) in 2007 and have expanded our support of their activities over the years. Today, WRISE has a grassroots network of nearly 15,000 members and hosts workshops, webinars, and programming through its local chapters and alongside industry events each year. Some of the organization’s most important projects are its annual Wind Power and Solar Power Fellowships, which provide individuals with the opportunity to attend annual industry conferences and trade shows.
With our partnership, all Invenergy employees receive a complimentary WRISE membership and access to their events. To celebrate Women’s History Month in March, Kristen Graf, WRISE’s former executive director, spoke to our employees about her career and journey as a woman in the renewable energy industry. Graf also spoke to WRISE initiatives that are dedicated to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion both within their organization and across the clean energy industry. Graf said “The renewable energy and sustainability sector has made dramatic advancements in recent years, and yet we are still at the tip of the iceberg and have a great deal of work ahead of us. Our hope is to ensure that each organization is not reinventing that work. There are incredible experts, resources, and best practices that are already known – we want to be sure our partners have access to all they need to be successful in their diversity, equity, inclusion and justice efforts.”