Donnel Baird grew up in one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, relying on a cooking stove for heat. He eventually attended Duke University then became a community organizer, which led to a role as energy efficiency staffer for the Obama administration.
In 2013, Donnel launched BlocPower, a startup that markets, finances and installs solar and energy efficiency technology to help houses of worship, non-profits, small businesses and multifamily projects to slash their energy costs.
In the U.S., most of the 5 million medium-sized buildings overuse energy. Many have dirty and out-of-date heating and electrical systems, which contribute to high inner-city asthma rates and other health concerns. BlocPower provides engineering and financial knowledge to retrofit city buildings. Along with custom analysis to determine the best ways to reduce energy use, the BlocPower team builds a financial case for each project and connects owners with lenders. They have retrofitted more than 500 buildings in New York and are expanding into Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Donnel is a 2012 Echoing Green Fellow.