Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Mesa is closer to its goal of reducing energy costs to zero thanks to a 10-kilowatt solar electric system donated through Salt River Project’s EarthWise Energy program.
The roof-mounted solar array, comprised of 60 solar modules, was installed on top of the home’s dining hall. It will save the non-profit, which is fully funded by donations, at least $150 a month, said Sean Sloan, Sunshine Acres executive director.
“We want to completely be powered by renewable sources,” Sloan said. “Our goal is to reduce our energy costs to zero. We want to do everything we can to reduce our overhead as much as possible.”
Sunshine Acres, which sits on 109 acres on Higley Road between McDowell Road and the Loop 202, houses 60 children from kindergarten to college age. The organization provides homes for families who can’t provide that care, Sloan said.
The $100,000 to $125,000 photovoltaic system was paid for by voluntary contributions from SRP’s EarthWise Energy customers. The monthly contributions of $3 and up by 6,000 SRP customers are pooled to buy solar panel systems for non-profit organizations, said Lori Singleton, SRP’s manager of sustainability initiatives and technologies.
“We all know non-profits are suffering and have energy costs. This is helping them offset these costs,” Singleton said. “It’s a great way for SRP and our customers to participate.”
The solar electric system will be turned on as soon as the SRP engineer who is stuck in Vienna can come back home, Singleton said. The engineer was attending a solar conference and can’t fly back because of the Icelandic volcanic ash that has grounded thousands of flights throughout Europe.
Once the system is commissioned, a data acquisition system will be available on Sunshine Acres’ website to show how much energy is being used and how much the solar electric system is producing.
“By using the sun there’s no fuel cost, and using the sun is cleaner (for the environment),” Singleton said. “The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates this system helps to avoid releasing 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually into the air.”
A Sunshine Acres’ solar committee and energy review committee have been exploring ways to save money and help the environment. The home is planning to add more recycling options and additional solar electrical systems on other buildings. They have also changed to energy-efficient light bulbs, started conserving water and changed the times laundry is washed, Sloan said.
“We’re trying to make this a big effort,” Sloan said. “We’re really excited about this opportunity and excited about making a better place for our kids.”
SRP’s EarthWise Energy program has also provided photovoltaic and solar water-heating systems for 18 homes in an Apache Junction Habitat for Humanity subdivision, as well as installed photovoltaic systems for the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo.