Buckhorn Children & Family Services (BCFS), a nonprofit organization in eastern Kentucky that provides services to at-risk youth, has unveiled its new 20.4-kW solar array to its Buckhorn Campus Rogers Cottage. The solar installation, provided by Everybody Solar, an organization dedicated to providing solar energy to nonprofits, is projected to produce 28,288-kilowatt-hours annually, decreasing the electricity costs of the BCFS building by 29%. The first phase of the project was completed in February 2021.
“Lighting, heating, and cooling are ongoing concerns for operations,” said Billy Smith, BCFS executive director, “Our electricity bills for the Cottage alone are over $1,400 per month during the winter — so installing a new solar array to decrease operating expenses will help us tremendously. The energy savings represent 14,000 hygiene kits, 2,800 sets of warm children’s bedding, or nearly 50 children who can receive 10 days of high-need one-on-one treatment that they can’t find anywhere else.”
BCFS serves all 120 counties of Kentucky by providing campus-based residential treatment programs, foster care, adoption and support for individuals experiencing developmental disabilities. About 800 children are served annually, many survivors of chronic and severe abuse and neglect.
“This year has been particularly challenging for BCFS,” added Smith, “COVID-19 has hit us and many nonprofits in ways we could not have anticipated. This solar project offers us a glimmer of hope as it would provide real and immediate savings in electricity costs.”
The impacts of the solar array project extend beyond BCFS. HOMES, Inc, the partner installer on the project, is developing a social enterprise line of business around solar installations in Eastern Kentucky.
“Projects like the BCFS are critical for organizations and small businesses in an area of persistent poverty; helping to lower operating costs so that these businesses can survive and providing vital services to our communities,” said Seth Long executive director of HOMES Inc. As Kentucky does not have a renewable portfolio standard, the BCFS solar project is an example of how renewable energy can help bolster local economies and open doors to this industry. For instance, some of the HOMES staff completing the installation are former coal miners.
“In a state that doesn’t offer much support for renewable energy installation, securing partners and donations was vital,” said Myriam Scally, Everybody Solar’s director of pperations & development. “This project is a shining example of how communities can come together and help its most vulnerable citizens while creating a more sustainable future.”
Project partners include the solar panel provider MaxSolar, the Mountain Association, HOMES Inc., the Gumerlock Family Foundation, the Solar Moonshot Program (managed by Hammond Climate Solutions and funded by Left Coast Fund), CITIZEN, Business Performance Improvement, PopSockets, Tonic San Francisco and Patagonia SF.