United Solar Initiative has recently committed to donate a 13.3 kw solar array for the Hospitality House in Boone, N.C. This is the largest system USI has plans to install to date.
Zach Sprau, a graduate student at Appalachian State University and project manager for USI, led the initial efforts for this installation with Jack Schaufler, an ASU graduate and USI board member.
Earlier in 2016, Schaufler mentioned to Sprau that USI was seeking to do more local projects, especially in the Boone area. Sprau’s long-time friend Jordan Duke is the facilities manager at the Hospitality House, so he approached Duke about the possibility of installing solar on the shelter. Duke was interested, and soon after he initially met with Sprau and Schaufler, USI conducted a basic site assessment with help from Collaborative Solar’s president Landon Pennington. After Schaufler graduated, he began working for Strata Solar in Chapel Hill, N.C. and Sprau has been managing the project since August 2016.
Sprau has continued to form a relationship between USI and Collaborative Solar throughout the process of the project. He hopes the installation will be completed sometime in the spring of 2017, but no specific dates have been set.
Pennington will teach a class on photovoltaics in the spring at ASU and his students will help install the system. This will not only give the students hands-on experience with solar installations, but it will reduce labor costs for USI and the Hospitality House and help to strengthen ties between all the organizations involved.
The Hospitality House is a transitional living facility staffed by 20 individuals who work to house and assist people struggling with homelessness in Boone. They have 8 beds for women and 16 beds for men in their emergency shelter, 29 beds for transitional and family housing, as well as rooms for permanent supportive housing. During the winter they expand and can accommodate up to 94 people, and try to avoid turning anyone away by setting up additional cots, if needed.
Duke emphasizes the importance of helping individuals pursue independence through the Hospitality House’s programs. Clients meet with social workers during the week so they can be assisted with a variety of needs.
“We’ve got to work with people where they are,” Duke said.
“Housing First” is the primary principle that staff at the Hospitality House believe in. Through meeting the need of adequate housing first, clients are better equipped to accomplish long-term goals, such as finding a stable job or moving into their own home. The “housing first” mentality contributes to the 70-75 percent success rate that the emergency shelter sees with its clients.
Duke is a proponent of renewable energy and thinks installing solar will help demonstrate to the Boone community that the Hospitality House is making an effort to be environmentally sustainable. The Hospitality House will cover a portion of the installation costs, but the solar panels will help during peak load hours and reduce the shelter’s energy bill to its utility provider.
The system USI installs will generate over $1920 in annual savings, which will allow the Hospitality House to provide more services for its clients. Duke said money generated from utility savings will go toward housing application fees, birth certificate fees, toiletries, or other financial or tangible needs the clients face.
USI is excited to partner with Collaborative Solar, ASU, and the Hospitality House for this project.
“This project is a great opportunity to put USI’s mission into practice by partnering with non-profits, the university, the solar industry, and local business to benefit those in need in the high country,” Sprau said.
Article and photo by: Lydia Odom