CEO of BlocPower Donnel Baird. Photo: Supplied / BlocPower

Brooklyn climate tech startup BlocPower is one of 15 companies nationwide on the cutting edge of green technology and clean energy that have been awarded a spot in Apple’s Impact Accelerator program.

The accelerator program is specifically for Black and Brown owned businesses to support equity and opportunity in the environmental sector and combat systemic barriers while advancing innovative solutions for communities most impacted by climate change, Apple said.

BlocPower, founded by the “proudly Brooklyn born and bred” Donnel Baird, is making American cities greener, smarter and healthier by retrofitting aging, inefficient buildings with smart, eco-friendly, electric heating and cooling systems. Since its founding in 2014, BlocPower has retrofitted more than 1,200 buildings in disadvantaged communities across 26 cities, reducing building energy costs by 30-50% and GHGs by 40-70% in current projects. 

It’s machine-learning tech platform works in buildings by determining which retrofits will produce the most energy savings at scale, while remotely monitoring energy consumption. Common retrofits include the cold-climate electric heat pump, which has been shown to dramatically decrease energy waste in partner buildings, as well as solar panels.

The BlocPower team. Photo: BlocPower / Supplied

Now, Baird and the BlocPower team will get to participate in courses, live sessions and one-on-one meetings with Apple team members to identify opportunities to align with Apple’s environmental goals, as well as ongoing mentorship and an expanded network through the accelerator.

Baird said when leading companies like Apple focused their resources and capacity on “the global existential challenge of environmental justice, they can help to provide the leadership we need to confront the climate crisis.”

Baird, formerly a senior staffer on the Obama campaign, previously told BK Reader his ultimate goal was to completely eliminate fossil fuel dependency in urban city buildings. He is passionate about climate justice and tackling environmental racism. Communities of color and low-income communities — many in Brooklyn — are disproportionately located in areas that are vulnerable to extreme weather events and places that are polluted with toxic waste. 

Solar panels being installed on a NYCHA building. Photo credit: NYCHA

After a solar energy CEO told Baird he wouldn’t put solar panels in Brownsville due to its residents having bad credit, Baird went to Brownsville and helped more than 200 homes in the neighborhood get installed with solar panels.

“It’s important for us to go in and say, ‘It can be done here.’ Anyone can put a solar panel on the corner of JP Morgan,” he said.

In February, the company raised $63 million in a Series A funding round; at the time BlocPower had “greened” 1,000 buildings in New York City, including 200 in Brownsville.

Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson said on the company’s journey to becoming carbon neutral, it was determined to help create a greener and more equitable future for all people.

“The businesses we’re partnering with today are poised to become tomorrow’s diverse and innovative industry leaders, creating ripples of change to help communities everywhere adapt to the urgent challenges posed by climate change,” she said.

The Impact Accelerator is tailored to support Black-, Brown-, and Native American and Indigenous-owned businesses that share Apple’s focus on innovation and commitment to the environment as they achieve their next stage of development.

The 15 businesses are based across the U.S. — from Silicon Valley in California, to Detroit, Michigan, to tribal nations across the Midwest — and are driving innovation in energy efficiency, solar, green chemistry, recycling and other environmental areas.

Many share a specific focus on bringing clean energy, opportunity, and vital services to vulnerable and underserved communities.

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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