Powered by the Sun

As of this week, LEAP has 62 photovoltaic panels on its roof, taking in solar energy to power The LEAP Hub's heat, lights, freezers, walk-in cooler, and electric vehicle.

It’s a 22.63 kilowatt grid-tied system that’s expected to generate 24,000 kilowatt hours per year, the equivalent of about $3,300 worth of today’s energy.

Additionally, Virginia utility companies pay producers of clean energy. who help the companies reach their renewable energy requirements. For a system like LEAP’s, that’s worth another $1,200 per year.

With inflation and rising energy costs, installing solar power made financial sense.

“You're locking in your energy prices. You’re buying your energy costs upfront, essentially,” says Rick Brown, owner of SolShine Energy Alternatives, the company that installed LEAP’s new system.

Choosing solar also aligned with LEAP’s mission to utilize sustainable practices whenever possible. This system will:

  • Sequester the same amount of carbon per year as a 20-acre US forest.
  • Offset roughly 17 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 42,505 miles driven by an average gas-powered vehicle.

How did a nonprofit afford a large solar system? A number of factors had to fall in line. As recipients of a portion of Roanoke City’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, LEAP was granted a sum of money that enabled it to invest in the future. Then last year, the federal Inflation Reduction Act provided support for nonprofits to purchase clean energy systems for the first time.

“My understanding is that with the recently passed IRA, LEAP will get a direct payment from the government for 30 percent of the cost of the system,” Brown says.

Turns out going solar is good for the climate and good for LEAP’s bottom line.

Photo courtesy Cloud Bobby Productions.

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