The solar panel manufacturer Trina Solar Limited is turning the U.S. philanthropic community on its head with a little help from actor Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey, of the hit TV show Grey's Anatomy, has lent his name to Trina's new solar power initiative for schools, health clinics and other community service organizations.
In the normal course of business you'd expect that the company would be headquartered in the U.S. and the beneficiaries would be in communities located in developing countries. Guess again: Trina Solar is headquartered in China, and some of the objects of its solar philanthropy are right here in the U.S.
"Development-blind" solar philanthropy
Trina Solar's philanthropic program appears to have no borders in terms of a whether a country is considered developed or not. Last year, for example, the company was involved in Tanzania where it helped to install solar panels at a medical clinic. It also provided solar equipment for reconstruction work in Haiti, which is still suffering from the effects of the 2010 earthquake.
On the other end of the economic scale, U.S. communities in Texas and North Carolina were the beneficiaries of Trina's solar philanthropy. The Texas project involved installing solar panels for several Habitat for Humanity homes, and in North Carolina the company teamed with the Dempsey Racing Team on a solar installation at a summer camp for children with chronic illnesses.
Global company, global philanthropy
To be fair, it makes perfect sense for a global company to practice good corporate citizenship in all of the countries that host its operations, regardless of whether or not they have the means to help themselves. Trina's efforts make even more sense if you consider them in the context of building a market for distributed solar energy generation. The company's new round of solar installations involves not only donating the solar panels, but also building partnerships with local installers and other related companies. By building a solar market infrastructure, Trina's initiative will help make solar power services more available to more paying customers.
Raising solar awareness
With Dempsey on board, Trina gains a high profile advocate for the benefits of solar power, and this educational component of the campaign also reaches beyond the individual recipients of the donated solar panels to embrace the commercial solar market. Last year Trina partnered with Dempsey to produce the "Plug Me In, Light Me Up" video, and this year the campaign will venture into social media as well as live appearances.
From solar panels to racing car
Since Dempsey is a serious racer, his relationship with Trina gains another dimension when you consider the company's use of a Lotus F1 racing car to promote its brand. U.S. racing fans are being exposed to an increasing number of solar installations at race tracks, and also at other sports venues such as football stadiums. Racing fans as well as sports fans in general are also getting a lot of exposure to the concept of environmental stewardship through the sustainability campaigns of organized sports including Major League Baseball and NASCAR.
Image: Gray's Anatomy plate (public domain) via wikimedia commons.
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.