Kristal Hansley is an entrepreneur and an advocate for the use of solar power to help working families reduce the cost of electricity. She got involved in the solar power industry when the state of Maryland and others passed laws designed to increase the use of solar power while deregulating the market to give consumers more choices to meet their energy needs.
She is now the proud founder of WeSolar, the first Black female-owned community solar power company in the US. This historic feat stems from Hansley’s conviction of the role solar energy could play in reducing the cost of electricity for households.
“During my time leading the Community Affairs policy at Congresswoman Eleanor Norton’s office, Maryland passed new laws to increase the use of solar energy across the state. I saw how effectively solar could reduce the cost of electricity for households, and decided to get involved in the emerging world of community solar,” Hansley told Black Enterprise.
Hansley worked at Neighborhood Sun, a regional solar company in Maryland, as director of Government and Community Relations. She saw how solar power helped thousands of low-to-moderate-income families save on their utility bills. It was at this point that she decided to launch her own company dedicated specifically to opening community solar farms in cities like Baltimore.
Under her leadership, WeSolar has built solar plants to be used on a local grid in black communities where customers can either subscribe to blocks of electricity or purchase a portion of the solar panels. Hansley’s overarching ambition will be to help Black and mostly low-income communities get affordable power.
In America, low-income black homeowners pay more for electricity than their counterpart white homeowners, according to the University of California, Berkeley, Energy Institute at Haas. The “disproportionate costs” result in a Black household energy burden that perpetuates wealth and housing disparities, the paper added.
Meanwhile, a 2016 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that the part of income black households devoted to utility bills was 64 percent higher than that of white households adding that if household efficiency levels were brought up to median standards, black households’ energy burden would be less than 30 percent higher than white ones.
One of the major hurdles faced by WeSolar is restoring trust in communities who have been preyed on by misleading practices of solar companies. “In prior years, there has been these energy voucher type of companies that when in and preyed on vulnerable communities and promising them such savings and those savings never occurred,” Hansley told NowThis.
“And so we need a medium to say listen ‘community solar is actually a legitimate program, it’s been passed in your state legislature and you can tap into these resources and now you actually have access to solar when you didn’t have it before,” she added.
She also added that to build trust, it is going to take the “community to debunk some these myths and echo community solar, so folks can build trust again.” Her company prioritizes black communities. She has built solar farms where customers can either subscribe to blocks of electricity or purchase a portion of the solar panels.
We Solar is one of the fastest-growing solar companies in the US, providing consumers across Maryland access to affordable solar energy, regardless whether they live in a house, apartment, condo, or mobile home.
In her spare time, Hansley serves on the Steering Committee for the non-profit Baltimore People Climate Movement and the board of directors of Maryland Baptist Aged Home, Dads United Organization, and F.A.C.E. (Freedom Advocates Celebrating Ex-Offenders).