This month, CARITAS began powering its one-of-a-kind recovery and homeless services facility in Richmond, Virginia, with solar power.
Secure Solar Futures of Staunton installed 782 Heliene photovoltaic solar panels, comprising the largest solar power system at any facility serving homeless people in Virginia, and possibly on the East Coast. The 313-kW solar array is estimated to cut the organization’s electric utility bills by $224,358 over the next 25 years.
“Solar power will save money on energy that CARITAS can apply to their mission of helping people improve their lives,” said Ryan McAllister, CEO of Secure Solar Futures. “The flat roof of the former warehouse building that they transformed into a beautiful energy efficient space was perfectly suited to hosting a solar power system large enough to make CARITAS a leader on clean energy.”
Secure Solar will operate the solar energy system, which is expected to cover a substantial portion of the new facility’s energy use by generating enough clean energy to power the equivalent of 39 average homes.
“There’s no other organization quite like CARITAS in that we provide all of the solutions to homelessness and addiction under one roof,” said Karen Stanley, president and CEO of CARITAS. “Our commitment to providing a holistic solution to homelessness and addiction starts with the building.”
Stanley is referring to the CARITAS Center, which opened in 2020. The center houses a new women’s recovery program and sober-living apartment community in addition to its emergency shelter, workforce development program and furniture bank programs. More than 100 staff members help provide support to the community at the center, in addition to a second location at 700 Dinwiddie Avenue. Last year, the nonprofit provided 36,000 nights of shelter to men and women in its recovery program and 15,653 nights of shelter in its emergency shelter.
“We worked with interior designers and architects with experience in the hospitality industry so our space feels more like a home than an institution,” Stanley said. “As an intentional part of achieving that goal, we infused a variety of clean energy elements into the building that reflect the value placed on our participant and staff mental and physical well-being.”
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 also incorporates 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 also feature automatic shut-off functions.
Secure Solar installed the 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 Solar 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.
News item from Secure Solar Futures