Little River VFW Post installs solar panel array on its facility with help from CCU students
Dozens of VFW members were in attendance for the official ribbon-cutting of a project they believe pushes their operations into the 21st century, and they credit the CCU Solar Ambassador team for helping them find a way to cut their energy bill while doing something positive for the community.
“So many people came together to make this happen,” said Post Commander Nick Camera. “This group of students came in with this proposal and answered some tough questions from a panel of old codgers, and they overcame some skepticism. We look forward to savings for us and to saving the planet.”
The Solar Ambassador program is overseen by RE-volv, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that uses crowdfunding to install solar panels in communities across the United States. The students have to apply annually to establish a Solar Ambassador team at CCU, and part of the program is working with a local nonprofit to install solar panels on the facility.
The project took nearly two years to complete from conception to completion, and the students raised $57,000, including matching funds from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, to make it happen. The VFW expects to save 20 percent on their overall energy bill thanks to the solar array.
Those savings will be rolled back into maintenance for the VFW building and be given back to the community.
“VFWs fill a gap of need for service in their surrounding communities,” said Pam Martin, CCU professor of politics and the adviser for the Solar Ambassador team. “There are a lot of poverty-stricken areas here, and nonprofits like the VFW step in the gap to help serve those areas. Their energy cost savings will enable them to do even more.”
Ryan Dexter, senior marketing and communications manager for RE-volv, said the solar array will save the VFW more than half a million dollars over the lifetime of the system.
“RE-volv is taking a 21st century approach to building a clean energy economy,” he said. “We want to build resiliency in our communities, and that’s what the VFW is doing. It’s a beacon of hope and light, showing how communities can come together.”
The benefits of the project stretch beyond the VFW and the services it provides its veterans and its community. The students who serve as Solar Ambassadors have learned and experienced so much that will help them get jobs in their field when the graduate, said Martin.
“These students don’t just study how to install solar,” she said. “They learn the science behind it, the policies surrounding it, and they get college credit while they’re doing it. Local installers are already employing these students.”
Yes! Solar Solutions in North Carolina installed the panels on the VFW and donated the $6,000 inverter, but the project also included Horry Electric and Carolina Energy Conservation, the latter of which employs several current and former Solar Ambassadors.
Solar Ambassador lead Shani Caplan-Chernoff said the impacts of the project are a step in the right direction and are only a beginning, citing RE-volv’s solar seed fund.
“This project will help fund three other solar projects across the United States,” she said. “I’ve learned that we have the power to make a difference in these communities, and that my passion is to help people through the power of renewable energy. I can’t wait to see the progress we make this year and in the years to come.”