HATFIELD — The sun is shining on eight nonprofits in the Pioneer Valley this fall after a local family anonymously agreed to pay nearly $400,000 to install free solar power systems at each organization’s headquarters.
Northeast Solar, based in Hatfield, is building and installing the solar power systems, the first of which was successfully installed on the rooftop of Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture in South Deerfield this week.
“The donors, like us, were motivated by both their passion for the community, and their passion for protecting the environment,” Northeast Solar President Greg Garrison said.
The other seven installations will grace the properties of the Amherst Survival Center, Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, the Grove Street Inn homeless shelter in Northampton, Historic Northampton, Peace Development Fund in Amherst, Prospect Meadow Farm in Hatfield and ServiceNet in Northampton.
According to Garrison, the eight installations will save the chosen organizations over $500,000 in operating costs through energy savings, money that will go towards carrying out the eight nonprofit organizations’ missions.
“This does two things. One, it helps those people who are resource poor save money through utility savings,” Garrison said. “Two, all of the dollars they are saving will flow through their projects and stay in the community. A farm could put the money into production, for example. Going solar is really about keeping our dollars local.”
The systems are also expected to reduce local carbon emissions by more than 1 million pounds over the next 30 years, satisfying the donors’ passions for supporting their community and protecting the environment, Garrison said.
Together, the eight systems cost $395,000, and are to be installed with a free labor donation by Northeast Solar.
In 2016, the anonymous donors, whom Garrison describes as longtime “acquaintances,” approached Northeast Solar about donating solar panels to a local nonprofit organization.
The donors chose the Northampton Survival Center, which provides nutritional groceries to 18 cities and towns in Hampshire County, as the first recipient of their donated solar panels.
According to Garrison, the donors viewed the Survival Center installation last fall as a “pilot project.”
The donors wanted the center to not have to pay for the installation, but also wanted to save as much money as possible themselves in order to help other nonprofit organizations. With future donations in mind, the donors opted to retain ownership of Center’s solar power system for five years.
That enables them to receive tax credits — something the center can’t do because of its nonprofit status — while the center cuts its utility costs.
“The family that made the donation, somebody needs to nominate them for an award,” Northampton Survival Center Executive Director Heidi Nortonsmith said.
Nortonsmith said the donation of the solar power system stands out as creative, and sends an important message to the community. “It does save us money, and I’m sure we will save thousands of dollars, but the calculations are actually beside the point. It’s really about doing a great thing for the environment and for the Pioneer Valley,” Nortonsmith said.