9 months ago
We cut the ribbon on our solar pavilion one year ago.
Since then it’s seen performances from Levitt Amp Whitesburg, hosted Appalshop’s original staffers to celebrate our 50th anniversary — and of course, served as the stage for our annual music festival, Seedtime on the Cumberland.
But by far the biggest thing it’s done is power our two buildings in downtown Whitesburg, Kentucky.
When we use electricity, we now draw from the power generated by our solar panels before we draw on the electricity supplied to us by Kentucky Power. Since we built our solar pavilion in June 2019, we’ve used an average of 65 percent less energy every month. That's the equivalent of planting 850 trees or offsetting 90,000 miles of driving.
For four months this year, 90 percent of the energy we used came from the solar panels we installed. For two more, 100 percent of our energy came from solar — and we think we’ll have another “all-solar” month this June.
We’re seeing the difference in our utility bills, too. Before installing solar, we paid an average of $1,200 a month for our main building’s electricity. Now? We saved an average of $600 every month in the last year, and saw a monthly utility bill approximately 55 percent lower than it was in the last two years. We shaved close to $7,000 off our utility bill in total last year.
Lowering our utility bill was a big part of our decision to go solar. In the last decade alone, energy costs have gone up by almost 50 percent, and they’re expected to double or more in the next few decades.
That’s unsustainable for us — and it’s unsustainable for our neighbors. Unusually cold winters have pushed many organizations in our region to the brink of closing their doors, and we believe alternative energy sources like solar are critical to their futures and our own.
We see solar as a powerful economic engine in Eastern Kentucky. We want our neighbors to be able to stabilize and reduce their electricity costs, and we want them to have new opportunities for employment weatherizing homes and businesses, installing efficiency measures, and constructing systems like our solar pavilion.
We believe it’s almost impossible to be what you can’t see, so to demonstrate what a renewable energy system is — how it works, what its benefits are — we built one.
Our solar pavilion is the largest net-metered renewable energy system in Eastern Kentucky, but we’re not the only organization with solar in Letcher County. We’re proud to broaden our collective impact with our partners in the Letcher County Culture Hub by installing solar at the Hemphill Community Center and HOMES, Inc.
In fact, in the last year alone 10 commercial sites and four residential ones have all installed solar here in Letcher County, a historically coal-dependent county of just 24,000 people. We think solar is a big opportunity here in the coalfields — and all around us, our friends and partners are proving it.
Thanks for your support on our journey installing it: a year out, we can officially say it was more than worth it.