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CCU students putting solar panels on another Grand Strand VFW Post

April 30, 2019
CCU students are working with these members of VFW Post 10420 in Murrells Inlet to install a solar array on the facility.Solar Ambassadors at CCU received NABCEP training to oversee solar installs in March 2019.The Solar Ambassadors are raising awareness and funds for their current solar install project on a VFW Post in Murrells Inlet.

The Coastal Carolina University Solar Ambassador student team is working with Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 10420 in Murrells Inlet to prevent 456,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions by installing solar panels on the facility.

Students are raising $35,000 through crowdfunding to pay for the installation of a solar system on Post 10420, which will divert 65 percent of the total energy used. The clean energy produced by this solar system will prevent 456,000 pounds worth of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of preventing the emissions from approximately 44 passenger vehicles.

The Solar Ambassador program at CCU is a year-long program organized through San Francisco-based nonprofit Re-volv, whose goal is to empower local communities by providing solar to nonprofit organizations.

As part of the initiative – which CCU has to apply annually to be a part of – the Solar Ambassadors gain a thorough understanding of the energy sector and energy policy while educating community members about renewable energy.

“This project gives us the opportunity to do something beyond ourselves,” said Julie Emory, a member of the Solar Ambassador team and an intelligence and national security studies major. “This campaign is only part of our endeavor to create a sustainable future through providing renewable, inexhaustible energy sources to the local community and beyond.”

The Solar Ambassadors’ fundraising campaign provides the VFW with no up-front cost for the solar installation. Instead, the VFW will pay Re-volv monthly installments over a 20-year lease period that are less than what they currently pay for energy. These payments go into a solar seed fund that in turn helps fund future solar installations on other nonprofits.

“We can use this [extra] money for monthly bills,” said Jimmy Keating, junior vice commander of the VFW Post. “We are not in real good shape, so this [saved cost] is going to help us.”

The VFW project represents the Solar Ambassadors’ ongoing commitment to helping the local community achieve energy independence. Veterans from the post said the post represents more than fellowship among the members. The post itself provides a “homely atmosphere” that welcomes returning veterans.

“The VFW is a place for me to come with veterans from similar circumstances overseas, and we get to talk and do things to help veterans that are in need and try to take care of the building,” said John Averella, senior vice commander. “We made a decision to go forward with it because we realized the solar panels would save us money in the long run.”

Installing solar on the VFW post signifies more than a reduction in energy costs; it serves as a testament to the students’ dedication to responsible energy and providing veterans with the home they deserve.

“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.”

The Solar Ambassadors have until May 10 to raise more than $35,000 for the installation. Students have been raising money by hosting raffles, soliciting sponsorships from local businesses, and collecting donations online (re-volv.org/project/VFW10420).

This project precedes the South Carolina Solar Council Conference in May 2019 where the Coastal Solar Ambassador team will be recognized for their success in installing solar panels on VFW Post 10804 in Little River, S.C., last spring. That solar array will save Post 10804 more than half a million dollars over the lifetime of the system.

Additionally, in March 2019 the Solar Ambassador team received initial certification with the North American Board of Certificated Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Photovoltaic Associates through NC State University.

The 2018-2019 Solar Ambassadors are: Shani Caplan-Chernoff, an interdisciplinary studies major; Nakkara Hess, an interdisciplinary studies major with a focus on intelligence and national security studies; Griffin Unruh, a marketing major; Allison Lavallee, a political science major; Lyle Ciardi, a history major; Emily Doscher, a philosophy major; Lucie Marshall, an interdisciplinary studies major; Nicole Moravitz, a marine science major; Danielle Kvadas, an interdisciplinary studies major; Katelyn Deane, an interdisciplinary studies major; Amanda White, an interdisciplinary studies major; and Emory.

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