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Community Food Share Solar Array Translates into More Meals

December 3, 2018

Theo Fowler, 14, with Boy Scout Troop 78, puts a box of cereal into a giant box while volunteering last month at the Community Food Share. The organization distributes meals to Broomfield and Boulder County residents.

Rays of sunshine hitting the solar power array installed last month on the roof of Louisville’s Community Food Share will translate into savings equivalent to the nonprofit’s cost of serving more than 155,000 additional meals each year.

Leaders of Community Food Share are celebrating its foray further into renewable energy generation, touting it as a driver of energy efficiency practices among hunger relief organizations across the country.

The 316-kilowatt solar array consists of 918 modules and is expected to produce nearly 430,000 kilowatt-hours in its first year, a press release from Community Food Share said.

It will defer 60 percent of Community Food Share’s cost on energy usage, most of which is expended on cold storage of perishable food items the nonprofit works to rescue from being thrown away and redistribute to its network of more than 40 local nonprofits, as well as directly to families and individuals.

“We think it’s the right thing to do. It also makes good business sense. It’s a way to be great stewards of our donations,” Community Food Share Executive Director Michelle Orge said. “When we can use our business practices to help people and do good for the community, do good for the environment. I think donors approve of that, when they can have more than one impact with their donation.”

The solar power system that went live last month was the second installed for Community Food Share by Boulder-based Namasté Solar, which two years ago donated a much smaller, 10-kilowatt solar generation system to the hunger relief agency that offset 1 percent of its energy usage cost.

“This project began in 2016 with Namasté’s donation. It was the building block and starting point for our vision to do something larger,” Community Food Share spokeswoman Julia McGee said.

Namasté each year puts 10 percent of its profits toward its Community Giving Program, which results in free installations of money-saving solar generation systems for Colorado nonprofits, Namasté co-founder Blake Jones said.

“We’ve donated a whole lot of solar systems over the years. That’s the way we prefer to donate. When you give a solar system, it’s a gift that keeps on giving,” Jones said.

That point is highlighted by Community Food Share’s calculation that its new solar system will have saved $821,000 on energy costs in its 20th year of power generation — almost twice the $473,000 price tag of the project, according to Orge.

She said a Boulder County Worthy Cause grant covered almost half the project’s cost, with another $45,000 from the Xcel Energy Foundation and $15,000 in rebates from the Boulder County Partners for a Clean Environment program.

Community Food Share’s commitment to clean energy generation is only one of its environmentally friendly business practices. Not only does it rescue enough food from going to waste to distribute more than nine million meals a year to people in need in Broomfield and Boulder counties, but last year it repurposed 222,000 pounds of food that couldn’t be eaten by people into animal feed, Orge said.

“What we can’t distribute as food, if it’s expired or damaged, or not usable for people, then we try to use it for animal food, or compost it,” Orge said.

Community Food Share was ranked No. 25 on an MSN.com list of the “40 Best Food Banks in America” published this week . The rankings were compiled through assessing a charity rating agency’s assessment and each organization’s transparency and financial health, and the Louisville nonprofit in its 2017 IRS filings showed it raised $20.3 million and spent 95 percent on its programs and services, the list said.

“We would love to be 100 percent solar eventually,” Orge said.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .

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