WESTMINSTER, Vt. – The Southeastern Vermont Community Action organization recently celebrated the first phase competition of their new project, the Community Solar for Community Action, a ground-mounted, solar array being installed at SEVCA’s main office in Westminster. When completed, the solar project will produce 109.7 kilowatts of renewable energy a year, providing low-income subscribers energy through “virtual net metered credits” on their electricity bills.
Last week, SEVCA hosted a ceremony to dedicate the energy project to the memory of Harald Schmidtke, SEVCA’s Weatherization Assistance program director of 25 years, who passed away in April. “Harald was our weatherization director for 25 years and SEVCA is still struggling to cope with his loss,” SEVCA Executive Director Steve Geller said in a recent interview.
“He was beloved by SEVCA staff, as well as our clients and the community as a whole, because of his unwavering commitment to our mission and his compassion for the most vulnerable members of our community. We believe that dedicating this project to his memory will honor everything he worked for and help keep his spirit alive.”
The CS4CA project was developed with the Minnesota-based Rural Renewable Energy Alliance who will offer a new, replicable model of energy assistance that addresses “both energy poverty and environmental sustainability.” CS4CA will be an important new tool in the organization’s efforts to ensure that all vulnerable households can meet their energy needs now and moving forward.
“The project began a little over a year ago through a conversation with RREAL, who informed us of the opportunity to participate in the U. S. Department of Energy’s ‘Solar in Your Community Challenge’ by serving as a pilot site for the CS4CA project,” Geller said. “There was a funding opportunity available at the time through the Windham County Renewable Energy Grant program and Windham Regional Commission (WRC), we applied for it and received $110,000 from WRC towards the project.
“And while we continue to fundraise, we went ahead with implementing the project and putting it out to bid, and selecting Catamount Solar as the contractor to install the system. Once the Certificate of Public Good was approved, Catamount scheduled the first phase of the installation, the ground-mounted solar array. The phase was completed in October and we dedicated the project to Mr. Schmidtke on Oct. 25.”
The next phase of the CS4CA solar project will be to install the solar panels onto the roof of the SEVCA office. “The solar panels will eventually be responsible for most of the electricity generated by the project, with two issues needing to be addressed before the next phase begins,” Geller concluded. “First, another $50,000 needs to be raised to reach our finding goal and second, some structural issues with the trusses supporting the office roof need to be addressed before installation can begin. We are hopeful to move forward with the project within six months.”
To learn more about the Community Solar for Community Action energy project and other SEVCA activities, visit their website at www.sevca.org.