VENICE â€” When the Friends of the Venice Public Library decided to focus its public fundraising appeal on installing solar panels on the roof of the new William H. Jervey Venice Public Library, they didnâ€™t have to go far to find the face of â€śLight Up Our Library, a Green Campaign.” Members simply looked up the street and tappedÂ environmentalist and wildlife photographer Clyde Butcher.
Butcher and his wife Niki moved to Venice officially in 2010, and live in a green home in the Harbor Lights Cooperative. Though hooked to the grid, the house receivesÂ all of itsÂ electricity from solar panels on the roof.
They also charge the main family car â€” a Chevrolet Volt â€” at home too.
Butcher frequently jokes that he received a $100 rebate from Florida Power & Light on his first electric bill.
The couple — still maintaining a home behind a gallery in Ochopee, near the Big Cypress National Preserve — made the first $5,000 donation to the campaign.
Niki Butcher equates the expense of going solar with saving the environment for future generations.
â€śThey can save up money for it, they can put it into a payment system and, at the same time they are preserving their childrenâ€™s future,â€ť she said.
Her husband, the iconic nature photographer, whose most recent environmental award came during the 2018 Audubon Assembly last month in West Palm Beach, where he received the Theodore Roosevelt award in honor of his education efforts, shares that same passion for solar energy.
â€śIn terms of global warming, Florida is the largest state thatâ€™s going to be impacted by it,â€ť Butcher said. â€śWe should be leaders in the environmental issue of global warming.
â€śWe should be showing the rest of the world what to do â€” not only in global warming but in clean water.â€ť
One of the easiest ways to do that, he said, is go to solar and reduce carbon emissions.
Butcher will be part of a panel discussion scheduled for Nov. 13, at the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce.
Butcher is also donating a 7-by-4-foot Myakka Swamp photo that will be raffled, with all proceeds going to the capital campaign, and posting social media promotions for the fundraising effort.
Camille Cline, director of the Friends of the Venice Public Library, noted that the soft opening of fundraising for Light Up Our Library started Oct. 1.
Instead of the originally envisioned 156-kilowatt addition, the Friends focused on a smaller 112-kilowatt installation. That cut the projected price tag from $352,000 to $260,000. It also would meet Sarasota Countyâ€™s 2030 challenge resolution.
â€śWe want to go for the gold standard in solar and the only thing that does that to reach that 2030 challenge resolution is the 112 kw,â€ť Cline said.
The resolution, which was adopted in 2006, calls for new construction projects â€” as of that date â€” to use no fossil fuel greenhouse gas-emitting energy.
Cline said that the solar panels are the last major enhancement for the library, scheduled to open Dec. 15.
The Friends are still figuring out the exact fundraising goal. Some of the unrestricted funds donated to the library can be applied to the solar panels.
Transition Venice, a grassroots nonprofit that fosters sustainability, is planning on matching up to $3,000 in donations.
Cline is working through to the Nov. 13 kickoff to involve other donors both for solo contributions or potential matches.
Bill Johnston of Brilliant Harvest, a Sarasota-based solar panel installer who both worked on the Butchersâ€™ Venice home and helped with the cost estimates for the library project, said the proposed system should cover about 30 to 40 percent of the buildingâ€™s total power consumption.
â€śItâ€™s not the full-sized array,â€ť Johnston said. â€śThey were originally thinking of trying to get as close to net zero energy as possible.â€ť
After the 112-kw solar panel array is installed it could eventually be expanded to the original specifications.
â€śThey could definitely add to it later,â€ť Johnston said. â€śCertainly thatâ€™s what we would encourage them, and frankly everybody else, to do.â€ť