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Sabathani’s Community Energy Project: Fighting the Good Fight

Sabathani’s Community Energy Project: Fighting the Good Fight

South Minneapolis residents deserve protection from the changing climate. For three years, Sabathani Community Center has led the charge to right the climate injustices done to South Minneapolis, but we can’t do this alone. We need your help.  

What You Need to Know 

The Community Energy Project emerged out of the 38th Street THRIVE! Strategic Development Plan for the City of Minneapolis, which nurtures the corridor along 38th street, “the heart of Minneapolis” – a historically Black community.  

Our community has the highest asthma rate for children in the state of Minnesota, a full 10 times higher than average across the State of Minnesota. Plus, the likelihood of dying of asthma is three times higher if you are Black or Asian.  

Systemic inequities are real. Communities of color such as ours have often been positioned in areas of less infrastructure development, with older buildings in need of repair, less energy-efficient, and more vulnerable to the stressors of climate change.  

Sabathani Community Center is no exception. Our 100-year-old building, formerly a junior high school, scored a stunning “zero” on its energy efficiency rating in 2018.  

With the mission to partner with our community and to be a hub for resilience, we knew a change was needed. In 2020, we witnessed the murder of George Floyd in our front yard of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue and found ourselves in the epicenter of a global racial reckoning. We saw our community hurting and we knew we had to find ways to help it heal. 

With the community, we recognized how we could be a voice for change on many levels, from how we can come together to fight racial injustice to how we can be an example of fighting climate injustices.  

And that work begins at home. South Minneapolis needs a place that people can trust in times of climate-related emergency, power outages, and natural disasters, and we need to be a leader in reducing pollution and sourcing renewable energy.  

What the Community Energy Project Includes 

The project is multifaceted and includes renovating all our energy systems, from lighting to heating and cooling to energy storage and more.  

We couldn’t undertake a project of this scope alone. Our partners in the project have been vital, helping us imagine the future and realize the possibilities. Key collaborators include Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), Xcel Energy, The City of Minneapolis, McKnight Foundation, Hennepin County, Rep. Ilhan Omar, President Andrea Jenkins, and engineering firms Apex, and Darcy.  

Sabathani is currently pursuing funding for this project through the Minnesota State Legislature and other Department of Energy grants. Thanks to McKnight Foundation and Representative Ilhan Omar who have helped with funding. Here’s where we are with the project progress as of now:

Benefits to the Community 

  • With the battery storage from Xcel Energy, we can establish Sabathani as a Resilience Hub for the neighborhood in times of crisis. (Microgrid technology will allow Sabathani to remain operational if the power goes out for an extended period of time.) 
  • By making Sabathani’s physical building more energy-efficient, we can save many thousands of dollars annually – money that can go to supporting the community through our programs.  
  • Updating our heating and cooling system with a renewable energy geothermal system, we can reduce pollution for the community (550 metric tons of carbon annually) and save huge amounts of money currently spent on keeping our 57-year-old boilers in working order. 
  • Once our new systems are in place, we’ll be a living laboratory and training center for geothermal and solar workforce training and job placement.  

The realization of this project would be a huge win for our community, supporting everyone who lives here and being an example of green technology in action. As community leaders, we can influence the environmental consciousness that’s so needed at this time, inspiring our community to come together to fight climate change. 

How You Can Help – Today! 

A funding proposal for this project is currently being reviewed in the Minnesota state legislature. Please contact your legislators and tell them you support HF 1926 and SF 1698 which provide needed funding for this project. 

Follow the links above for more information about each bill, and there you can view the legislators who have authored the bills. 

We especially need support from the Chair of the Capital Investment Committee on the House side, Representative Fue Lee, and Chair of the Capital Investment on the Senate side, Senator Sandy Pappas. 

Please contact them and advocate to fund Sabathani’s Community Energy Project, HF 1926 and SF 1698. For a full list of legislators: 

Learn More of Our Efforts 

Watch this video that profiles the Community Energy Project in depth.  

Check it out, be inspired, and please take action today. Contact your legislators and share with others. We’d appreciate your support. 

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