Donnel Baird: Clean Energy in Old Buildings

Donnel Baird, 34
Founder and Chief Executive, BlocPower
New York
It’s not unusual for small businesses and houses of worship located in old New York buildings to spend 30 percent of their budgets on energy. But banks aren’t willing to lend them the money to make their sites energy efficient.

Donnel Baird’s answer to the dilemma is BlocPower, which develops community energy projects, aggregates them into portfolios big enough to attract environmentally minded investors, and hires local residents to make the improvements.
“We want to bring clean energy to every inner city in the country,” he says.
BlocPower is a public-benefit corporation — a hybrid firm that can factor social and environmental goals as well as profit into the bottom line — with a nonprofit arm. It has developed more than 340 projects in the New York City area over the last year and created more than three dozen jobs in the last six months.
The organization is also giving people in the communities it serves a new stake in environmental issues, says Mr. Baird.
“Folks who don’t necessarily have a high-school education are coming to work talking about the Senate debate on climate change,” he says. “It’s exciting to be able to create that constituency of workers and community leaders whose buildings are being impacted.”