Pictured from left: Josh Nierman (Pro-Circuit Electrical Contracting), Dominick Martinell (Pro-Circuit Electrical Contracting), Jeannine Gorman (Flemington Area Food Pantry), Eric Goodwin (OMCO Solar), Jatin Khanna (First Solar) and Tom Kuster (Merit SI) as they celebrate the new solar array. (Photo provided)
FLEMINGTON, N.J., â€“ The Flemington Area Food Pantry, serving Hunterdon County, N.J., celebrated and unveiled their brand new solar array installation with a ribbon cutting on November 16, 2020 at the Flemington Area Food Pantry, 151 Route 31 North, Flemington.
This project was made possible by a collaborative donation effort amongst notable solar industry leaders and community volunteers, each supplying their individual components.
Among all of the parties who contributed to make the installation a reality, the pantry has one in particular to thankâ€“ North Hunterdon High School student, Evan Kuster.
â€śAs a volunteer at the Food Pantry, I was aware that they had a significant electricity expense for their refrigerators and freezers and thought that solar energy could save their budget,â€ť shared Kuster, North Hunterdon High School student, Class of 2022. â€śMy dad works at a solar energy development company called Merit SI, and he suggested we ask for donations to fund the system.â€ť
So the Kusters asked, and solar industry leaders responded. Rallying around their vision of impact, a full slate of project partners including First Solar, OMCO Solar, SMA America, and Pro Circuit Electrical Contracting signed on to the project. Collectively, they donated an entire solar installation to the pantry, relieving an annual electricity bill of $10,556 (2019).
Now, the new 33 kW system allows those funds to be allocated towards the purchase of food for their community â€“ enough to prepare 6,360 meals.
Jeannine Gorman, Executive Director of the Flemington Area Food Pantry, emphasized the gravity of this new asset. â€śEvery dollar we spend on our electric bill is one less dollar we can spend on food for the community,â€ť said Gorman. â€śWe carry out our mission on a daily basis; itâ€™s so motivational for us to know that professionals care enough to donate their time, talent, and supplies to help us continue to serve our communityâ€™s needs.â€ť
This display of generosity could not have been timelier, given the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March and May, there were 400 new registrants at the pantry, and in the first six months of the year, they saw a 30 percent increase in their clientele. According to Ms. Gorman, â€śthe despair on familiesâ€™ faces as they have had to ask for helpâ€ť has been evidence that the pandemic has had a crippling impact, stretching many to levels of need they had not experienced before.
Tom Kuster, CEO of Merit SI and Evanâ€™s father was proud to spearhead the project. â€śFacing this global pandemic has undoubtedly been daunting for all Americans, but it has been particularly difficult for underserved and at-risk communities,â€ť said Kuster. â€śAt Merit SI, we believe our role as corporate citizens is to convene forces and lend assistance wherever the need is the greatest.â€ť
Merit SI provided the infrastructure design and engineering, but also acted as coordinator, bringing many key players on board to make it happen. â€śWe are thankful to our partners for donating their time, expertise, and solutions to this project, which will substantially help this community during this grave and unprecedented time,â€ť Mr. Kuster remarked.
The advanced thin-film solar modules were donated by First Solar, Inc., Americaâ€™s Solar Company. Founded in 1999, the Arizona-headquartered company operates the Western Hemisphereâ€™s largest solar manufacturing footprint in Northwestern Ohio. It is also the sole American company amongst the worldâ€™s nine largest solar manufacturers. The modules used in the installation were designed and developed at the companyâ€™s research and development (R&D) centers in California and Ohio, and boast the lowest environmental footprint in the industry.
OMCO Solar, a community and utility-scale OEM of solar tracker and racking solutions, mounted the pantryâ€™s array. Aligning with their internal â€śOMCO Caresâ€ť program, Director of Solar Business Development Eric Goodwin expressed the companyâ€™s pleasure to participate. â€śEnergy costs can be a burden for many households, especially now, so bringing solar to a community resource such as the Food Pantry is a great opportunity to give back,â€ť he said. â€śWe are grateful to the Merit SI team in particular for including OMCO Solar in this effort, and we are proud to work alongside them to complete this project.â€ť
System technology specialists SMA America, donated the Sunny Tripower CORE1 inverter.
Based in Germany but also operational in the United States, SMA has been distributing top of the line PV inverters and innovating in intelligent energy management for 30 years.
Pro Circuit Electrical Contracting installed the array, donating all of the electrical and general labor.
The team in Flemington, N.J. are leading contractors, specializing in commercial and industrial solar electrical work.
â€śI am amazed at all the collaboration among the many companies that committed to the projectâ€¦I want to thank all of the donors, and the individuals who made this possible,â€ť said Evan Kuster. â€śIt has been a positive light for us all to help our neighbors while chipping away at the impacts of climate change.â€ť
Donations to the Flemington Area Food Pantry are greatly appreciated; please visit the donation page at http://flemingtonfoodpantry.org/donate-â€“ and thank you!
About OMCO Solar
OMCO Solar is Americaâ€™s premier one-source, OEM manufacturer of solar tracker and mounting solutions for the community and utility-scale markets.
The companyâ€™s expertise in fixed tilt and single axis tracker systems stems from decades of steel manufacturing, beginning in 1955 when OMCO Holdings, its parent company, was founded.
To date, OMCO Solar has delivered over 8GW of factory-direct, high-quality solar mounting structures worldwide. With a manufacturing footprint spanning coast-to-coast, the company delivers their American-made solar solutions built from 100% US steel to developers nationwide.
For more information, please visit OMCO Solar at www.omcosolar.com.
About Merit SI, LLC
Merit SI is a sustainable energy infrastructure company and developer of energy projects for major industrial and infrastructure operators, utility-scale solar and storage power plants.
Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Merit SI Technologies, Merit SI supplies advanced power plant and microgrid controls solutions to leading global solar, wind and battery storage infrastructure operators.
Merit is owned in part by Turner Renewable Energy and is headquartered in Houston, TX, with additional offices in Clinton, NJ and Austin, TX.
For more information, visit www.meritsi.com.
About Turner Renewable Energy, LLC
Turner Renewable Energy is wholly owned by Ted Turner. Turner Enterprises Inc., a private company, manages the business interests, land holdings and investments of Ted Turner, including the oversight of 2 million acres in 12 states and in Argentina, and more than 45,000 bison.
For more information, visit www.tedturner.com