RACINE — In a year or two the James A. Peterson tiny home village and the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin facility at 1624 Yout St. could be powered by the sun.
Students from the Walden Middle and High School’s Green School are raising funds to install solar panels that would power the Veterans Village’s tiny homes and communal space.
Green School is an environmental club in which students develop and implement projects and activities that emphasize healthy living and sustainability. In 2009, Green School raised $139,000 for the installation of solar panels at Walden that continue to generate electricity for the school.
Senior Jasmina Scekic, this year’s Green School president, said that last year she was brainstorming projects for the club to do.
“I wanted to work with a community organization on an initiative,” she said. “So I was looking for projects that would involve the community.”
She decided she wanted to do something similar to the 2009 solar panel project, but working with a community organization. Scekic and former Green School adviser Tom Rutkowski looked into a few organizations before they learned about Veterans Outreach and its tiny home village for homeless veterans.
“They’re going to have fairly high electricity bills to run something like that,” said Scekic. “We thought that solar installation could be something they could really benefit from.”
Green School approached VOW co-founder and director Jeff Gustin to ask if the organization was interested in partnering with them.
“I was a little bit surprised but then just grateful that they want to do it to help us out,” said Gustin.
A ‘huge’ help
The plan is to install a 20-kilowatt solar panel on the roof of the SC Johnson Community Center, the shared kitchen, laundry and recreation space. The panel would generate an estimated 27,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year.
Since not all 15 tiny homes are occupied, it’s difficult to estimate how much electricity the facility will require and how much will be offset by the solar panel. But Gustin said it’d be a huge help for the organization’s mission.
“It’d be huge for us to not have that bill,” said Gustin. “Plus the whole going green and reducing the (carbon) footprint.”
The total cost for the panel is $56,000 including installation. The club has posted a fundraiser on youcaring.com (www.youcaring.com/veteransoutreachofwisconsin-1049066), a free online fundraising website, where it hopes to raise $20,000. As of Sunday evening, they had raised $560 from 14 donors.
If the club hits its $20,000 goal, an anonymous donor has agreed to contribute another $10,000.
The project has also received a $10,000 “Solar for Good” grant from RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison nonprofit, which has to be used by the end of 2018. The students are planning on approaching businesses and organizations to raise the remaining funds.
Scekic said the one thing she hoped her fellow students would learn from the project is how to work with multiple organizations to complete a project.
“It’s important that students realize how important collaboration and participation from many different member organizations is in completing this process,” she said.
The Solar for Good grant means that the club has until the end of 2018 to complete fundraising and purchase the equipment, but Scekic said that she would like to at least see the majority of it done before she graduates at the end of the school year.