Published: Aug 04, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Aug 04, 2012 06:03 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Trish Hussey and Rita Leadem stretched a ribbon in front of a solar panel set up just outside the front door of the Freedom House Recovery Center Thursday afternoon, while State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird stood beside them, wielding a blue-handled pair of scissors.
They stood a bit incongrously, considering the event was a ribbon-cutting for a solar power project in the shade, under the buildings overhanging roof.
Fortunately, the actual working solar panels on the roof overhead, which crews were installing even as Kinnaird dispatched the ribbon with one efficient snip, were bathed in full summer sunshine.
We all need to recognize the people on the roof, Kinnaird said. Its 95 degrees, and theyre up there doing the work. So we should say thank you to them too.
The solar panels going in overhead will provide hot water and electricity to Freedom House, which provides a wide range of services for people with addiction and mental illness.
The system was donated by NC Warn, the third such installation in its new Solar Rooftop Donation Program.
We anticipate that this will save us thousands of dollars every year in power bills, and all that money we save can instead go directly into providing services, said Hussey, executive director of Freedom House. But this goes far beyond just the financial savings. Its also about raising awareness. Already our staff has been watching the crews install the systems, and theyre interested and excited about the potential for clean, safe and affordable energy.
NC Warn, a nonprofit dedicated to energy efficiency and clean power generation, has launched the new program by donating solar systems to the Helen Wright Center for Women in Raleigh, Urban Ministries in Durham and now Freedom House in Chapel Hill.
We wanted to support other nonprofits, and we especially want to support nonprofits that provide direct service to the communty, said Leadem, assistant director of NC Warn. And we wanted to work with organizations that use a significant amount of hot water and electricity, like shelters and recovery centers. Were thrilled to be able to do this, and next well look at how we can expand the program across the state.
Gregg Lasseter of Urban Ministries said the solar systems were installed there in May and have already resulted in savings of about $250 per month.
At Freedom House, Solar Consultants of Carrboro installed the hot water system, and Yes! Solar Solutions of Cary did the photovoltaic electricity system, which will generate 6,900 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, according to Yes! owner Stew Miller.
All in all, the Freedom House systems cost about $30,000, said NC Warn Executive Director Jim Warren.
The funding comes from an unsolicited grant by a private party who wishes to remain anonymous, Warren said.
This person was impressed with the work weve done to promote solar energy, and wanted to support that work, Warren said. We certainly hope to continue the program, and were looking at options and receiving requests. We do have funding for some additional systems. Id like to put solar energy systems on every institution in the state, if we could.
John Richardson, the Town of Chapel Hills sustainability officer, was on hand for the celebration Thursday. He said he wished he could attend this sort of event every day.
This is what we mean when we talk about something being truly sustainable, he said. It combines solar power with a vital social service, and it also involves a number of partners working together.
So you have social, economic and environmental elements all working together. Its a great model.