Being an environmentally responsible member of the community is an important part of the mission of the YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County in Ithaca, New York. The organization, celebrating its 150th anniversary and with nearly 4,000 members, has been pursuing ways to reduce its carbon footprint in recent years, installing a catalyst on its HVAC system, switching out old incandescent bulbs for LEDs, upgrading the boiler that heats the pool and exploring opportunities to leverage renewable energy.
Making a big capital investment in equipment to provide lower cost energy was out of the question, so when Frank Towner, CEO, learned about community solar and how the program could reduce his electricity costs with no fees or long-term contract, he was immediately interested. In close consultation with his Building and Grounds Committee, Towner reviewed community solar programs to better understand how they work and exactly what benefits the YMCA would realize. Towner and community solar provider Nexamp were introduced to each other through a mutual connection at the United Way and after a discussion, Nexamp put together a proposal that included a 200 kW subscription on which the YMCA would realize 10% annual energy savings.
“We were looking at a couple of different community solar providers,” recalls Towner, “but the Nexamp program was easier to understand and the enrollment process was so seamless. We see exactly what we are saving each month and can track the environmental impact of our portion of the solar farm. More importantly, the money we save will directly enhance our ability to serve the community by funding more scholarships and programs.”
The YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County is subscribed to the nearby Nexamp community solar farm in Seneca, a 5.2 MW farm serving NYSEG customers across the region. Because each YMCA is independently operated, they can make their own decisions about these kinds of opportunities. Towner knows that in his market, financial supporters respond well to sustainability initiatives, meaning that while subscribing to community solar has an immediate impact on his bottom line, it also creates a more favorable environment for nurturing financial supporters. By adopting community solar, this facility will reduce its carbon footprint by 154 metric tons each year—a significant change for the better.
“It really helps to have a Board that shares my vision and is able to see the bigger picture around why this is the right move at the right time for us. Combining energy efficiency improvements, a community solar subscription and a commitment to expanding the reach of the YMCA within our local community, we are looking at a very bright year ahead,” says Towner. He’s even thinking ahead to how he can utilize renewable energy on future projects, such as the organization’s outdoor education center, further establishing the YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County as a sustainability leader.