As our CARITAS family knows, we’ve been working hard to bring a bold vision to life: The CARITAS Center. There are many innovative programs and features of this new building: a sober-living apartment community, a recovery program for women, and state-of-the art classroom space. In many ways, the building will be a first of its kind. Another reason: CARITAS will install and operate the largest solar power system at any facility for a non-profit organization in Virginia.
Solar arrays on the new CARITAS Center are now under construction by Secure Futures Solar of Staunton. This spring, they will begin installation. The solar set up will provide a total capacity of 427 kilowatts of clean energy, estimated to cut CARITAS’s electric utility bills by $427,000 over the next 25 years.
More than 1,000 Heliene brand photovoltaic solar panels will be installed on the roof. The solar energy system is expected to cover a substantial portion of the new facility’s energy use by generating enough clean energy to power the equivalent of 72 average homes and to offset 464 tons of carbon dioxide pollution.
According to data on solar installations registered with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the solar arrays at the CARITAS Center will have the largest capacity of any solar energy system located on a building or elsewhere at the location of a non-profit organization in Virginia. As of 2016, Virginia hosted nearly 38,000 nonprofit organizations delivering vital community services, according to consultancy Independent Sector.
“Innovation is one of our core values at CARITAS,” said President & CEO Karen Stanley. “As we move ahead bringing this bold vision for the CARITAS Center to life, it is important that we integrate new energy solutions into our project. We hope we can lead the way as other nonprofits bring solutions like this to life in their communities.”
Secure Futures will install solar energy equipment at no upfront capital cost to CARITAS and will operate the system under a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement. Over that term, CARITAS will buy all the electricity generated by the solar panels located on-site from Secure Futures at a cost lower than typically available. CARITAS will use a $17,000 grant from the RVA Solar Fund, administered by the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond.
“CARITAS is walking the walk in linking clean energy to community service in Virginia, ” said Anthony Smith, president and CEO of Secure Futures. “Rooftop solar will cut their electric bills, making more resources available for their most vulnerable neighbors to break the cycles of homelessness and addiction to reclaim their lives.”
The decision to add solar power at the new facility is consistent with the commitment of CARITAS to effective stewardship of resources that are both financial and ecological. The building will also incorporate about 45 solar tubes, which will filter natural light throughout the Center. Other appliances are ENERGY STAR certified to manage usage and costs. Toilets in the building will also feature automatic shut off functions.