Second Wind Cottages, a not-for-profit group in Newfield, NY providing independent housing and life instruction for formerly homeless men, is all about community. The seven-acre facility currently includes 18 single-room cottages that each feature a bathroom, kitchenette and bed area. Residents come together for events or to socialize, and often are found supporting each other as they journey toward recovery.
With its focus on community, it’s no surprise that Second Wind was drawn to Nexamp’s community solar program to lower its monthly energy costs and support the expansion of renewable energy. “As an organization, our commitment is to be good stewards of everything we are given,” notes Sarah Widercrantz, treasurer and board member of Second Wind. “That ethic applies to everything from responsible spending to taking care of the natural resources in the community around us. I love the idea that we can support local, green power while we also save money for other program priorities.”
Beginning in the fall of 2013, Second Wind started construction on the first phase of cottages. Each unit costs about $15,000 and is built by volunteers to be as energy efficient as possible. The next phase calls for adding a common building that will provide much-needed office and program space. As the facility expands, operating expenses represent a growing share of the budget, so any opportunity to bring those costs down is welcome.
When a group of Cornell University students working on a leadership project approached Second Wind and offered to help with an energy plan, the groups discovered a shared interest in sustainability and community. The students worked with Snug Planet, a local energy efficiency and consulting company that had already provided insulation services to Second Wind, to complete an energy audit. Jon Harrod, Owner of Snug Planet, says: “We looked at every aspect of the facility to see where we could make improvements and bring energy costs down. Because the cottages are new and very well built, we identified areas such as lighting and occupant behavior for improvement. The bigger opportunity was in securing cheaper electricity for the common building, and from past work with Nexamp’s community solar program, we knew how to do that. It’s a win-win for cutting costs and going green.”
Second Wind did not know anything about community solar, but liked the focus and potential benefits for the local community. “When I presented this, I pointed out the positive impact this could have on fundraising as well as the obvious benefit of freeing up money for some of our other priorities. These savings will make it easier for us to fund our common building and keep up with the supplies we need every month,” Widercrantz explains. She also feels that locally sourced energy makes the community stronger.
Harrod points out that solar power is a great option, but so many structures can’t support the panels. For example, the roofs on the cottages at Second Wind are too small for panels; community solar addresses those challenges and makes solar available to everyone. He also likes that there are no up-front costs in community solar, so it is easy to get started. Not-for-profit organizations such as Second Wind enjoy the savings and the positive environmental stance that come with community solar.
“Our number-one priority at Second Wind is helping our residents learn to live well in community,” says Widercrantz. “By making community solar part of our plan for the common building, we are modeling
what it means to care about how we impact our community with our choices while showing that such choices can have the added bonus of saving us money.”
Nexamp is a developer, owner and operator of community solar farms that enable homeowners, renters, non-profits, small businesses and others to benefit from solar power without any up-front investment or long-term contract. Subscribers benefit from the energy generated through offsetting credits on their own monthly energy bills, reducing their costs by about 10% annually.