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Huntington’s largest solar panel project underway

August 4, 2018

HUNTINGTON - Installation of the largest solar panel project in Huntington is underway at Harmony House.

“We are in the process of installing 115 solar panels in what will be a game-changing project for Harmony House,” said Bill Rosenberger, the agency’s director of development.

The Cabell-Huntington Coalition for the Homeless, or Harmony House, has three separate entities in one building in the 600 block of 4th Avenue.

“We have the Vanity Fair apartment complex, the shelter, and our administrative offices,” Rosenberger explained. “This will zero out our electricity costs for the administrative offices for the entire year.”

He estimated the solar panels would save the nonprofit organization as much as $130,000 in electricity costs over 25 years.

“This really ensures a healthy financial outlook for the agency for the next 25 years,” Rosenberger said. “This savings can help us do what we do best, which is helping the homeless.”

The project is being funded by an anonymous donor.

“We wondered how we were going to pay for this and a donor heard about our project and said they wanted to invest,” Rosenberger said. “A week later, we got a check for $65,000 that will pay for the entire project.”

The project is being done in collaboration with Solar Holler and Coalfield Development.

Solar Holler first replaced 400 light bulbs and 10 exit signs’ lighting with cost-saving LED bulbs.

“That saved us $182 a month and that project was paid off with the savings this spring,” Rosenberger said. “Every dime we save is going right back into our programs. We hope this can be a model for other nonprofit organizations in the state.”

Dan Conant, the founder of Solar Holler, said they got their start about five years ago.

“We have been working with nonprofit organizations across the state to bring solar within reach to those that have been left out,” he said. “We have been working with churches, libraries and social services organizations, including homeless shelters across West Virginia to make solar affordable for them. What is really cool about this project in particular is our ability to have a lasting impact on organizations that are doing so much good in their communities.”

Conant said with this project they have done everything from the modeling, design and engineering to having their master electricians on site to hook up the solar panels.

“We are working with Coalfield Development to train the workforce that we need to meet the needs of this quickly growing industry,” Conant said.

Conant said Solar Holler is on track to do about 100 solar panel projects in southern West Virginia in 2018.

“We are now employing 20 folks full-time and that is growing rapidly as well,” he said. “It’s been really exciting to be a part of building this new industry in southern West Virginia from the ground up and putting people to work.”

Zach Drennen, president of Rewire Appalachia, which is one of Coalfield Development’s enterprises, says they have been partnered with Solar Holler since its inception.

“We, as Rewire, are their installers of the solar panels, as well as a platform for workforce development and training around the solar industry in the state,” Drennen said. “So when Dan and Bill began talking about this project we knew we would be the ones on this roof doing the installation.”

The solar panel installation project is expected to be completed by early next week.

“The city will have to inspect it, then AEP will come in an install a meter and then we flip the switch to begin saving electricity costs with the solar panels,” Rosenberger said.

Rosenberger says the building the solar panels are being installed on also has a lot of history.

“This roof over Vanity Fair Courtyard is where Marshall College played basketball in the 1930s and 1940s,” he said. “This is where men came to have their physicals in World War II, so to think nearly 100 years later there are solar panels being installed on the roof is the cool historic part as well.”

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.

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