In honor of veterans, we at SACE wanted to highlight a great story about veterans taking a significant step to protect the environment and advance the clean energy economy. Thank you to all veterans for your service and sacrifice!
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10804 in Little River, SC went solar this year with the help of a student group from nearby Coastal Carolina University (CCU). The 15.1 kilowatt solar installation will keep the VFW’s electricity bills low, allowing them to spend more of their budget directly on their core mission of serving veterans through camaraderie, veteran advocacy, and programs like job training and financial support.
The VFW Post has a 20-year lease on the solar system, with estimated savings of about 19% compared to their average power bill, meaning long term savings for the post, delivered every month. This will mean serious savings for the VFW post, where electricity bills can be as high as $2,000 per month in the summer, and will help the VFW focus on serving veterans. At the end of the 20-year period, the ownership of the system will be transferred to the VFW at no cost.
Nick Camera, VFW Post 10804 Commander said, “A few years ago, we did an energy audit. We found that we were losing a lot of money paying for our utilities. And so we looked at ways to save some money and solar energy seemed to be the solution.”
Moreover, the solar project has been very valuable for the Coastal students who helped arrange it. The Coastal Solar Ambassadors, a group of about a dozen students has been learning about the emerging clean energy economy and carrying out hands-on projects locally and around the country. Group leader and student Shani Caplan-Chernoff said that working on solar energy helped her find the direction she wants to take in life, “I started off as a marine science major–I love the ocean. But once I got into solar energy, I realized I can do something even better to protect the ocean that I love, and that’s really what drives me.” Ms. Caplan-Chernoff also said that the students have learned many valuable career skills through the solar ambassadors program, such as policy, community outreach, working with nonprofits, and the solar business.
The CCU Solar Ambassadors wanted to help a local nonprofit go solar, but solar energy can be tricky for nonprofit organizations to benefit from since nonprofits are not able to use the tax credits that homeowners or businesses can. To help make the process easier to navigate, the Solar Ambassadors found a partner organization called Re-volv to provide the lease, which also helps other nonprofit organizations go solar through a unique approach of community-supported crowdfunding and a “pay-it-forward” model. The VFW and the students hosted a crowdfunding campaign through RE-volv, got the word out by tabling at community events and through social media, and raised the upfront costs of the solar system, while solar installer Yes Solar Solutions donated hardware as well. This meant no upfront costs for the VFW. However, the VFW’s lease payments will go directly to fund upfront costs of other nonprofit solar projects, such as the CCU Solar Ambassador’s next project. VFW Commander Nick Camera says, “As we pay our monthly payments toward the system, those payments are going to go toward some other organization.”
Ultimately, the project culminated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 13 and the VFW is now solar-powered.
Check out the videos below to learn more about the project.
Learn about the VFW Post 10804 and find out how you can get involved here: http://www.vfwpost10804.org.
On this Veterans Day, SACE wishes to thank veterans, and also VFW Post 10804 members and the Coastal Solar Ambassadors.