JEFFERSON â€” The move toward greater energy efficiency could not have come at a better time for the Humane Society of Jefferson County, which completed the installation of its new solar array earlier this month and began generating energy through solar power.
Officials flipped the switch June 1 to activate the new solar array, at an insular ceremony attended by shelter cats, a canine representative, a guinea pig and their human caretakers.
The Humane Society of Jefferson Countyâ€™s new solar power system, referred to as â€śSUNPAWERED,â€ť is the largest power-generating solar array at a shelter in Wisconsin. It includes 168 solar panels projected to generate more than 74,000 kilowatt-hours per year.
â€śIt was very exciting to finally see this project come to life, and on one of the hottest, sunniest days of the year,â€ť said Jeff Okazaki, executive director of the humane society.
â€śWe literally threw a giant metal switch and started the power flowing to our shelter and back into the grid,â€ť he said.
The project carries a total budget of $120,000, which comes to 1.9 cents per watt, Okazaki said.
Planning for the SUNPAWERED project began in July of 2019 and installation started in April this year.
Okazaki said there were a few â€śsmall hiccupsâ€ť along the way involving â€śout-of-the-boxâ€ť equipment problems that required some of the networking and generation equipment to be replaced.
Fortunately, these blips were easily amended, and the project faced no delays despite the ongoing pandemic that has forced the animal shelter â€” like businesses and organizations around the world â€” to operate differently to preserve public health.
â€śWe still have all of our pandemic precautions in place,â€ť Okazaki said. â€śWeâ€™re following the recommendations from the University of Wisconsin and other experts, which are urging us to continue doing what weâ€™re doing to protect the public and our staff.â€ť
Okazaki said the humane society can not afford to have a coronavirus outbreak among any of its staff or volunteers, on whom the animals depend for their care.
â€śWe have definitely felt the impact of the coronavirus under our roof, but on top of the roof, everything has gone very smoothly,â€ť Okazaki said.
â€śWe hope that the community sees the success of this project as a bright spot in these uncertain times and a symbol of our brighter future,â€ť Okazaki said.
He said that the humane society has been fortunate to see great community support for this project.
Funding came from the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation, the Couillard Solar Foundation of Deerfield, the Lake Mills Community Foundation and Focus on Energy, a collective foundation of Wisconsin utility companies.
In addition, more than 65 individual donors helped the humane society cross the finish line on its capital campaign, Okazaki said.
As of earlier this week, the humane society director said, the new system already had generated 4.75 megawatt hours of electricity. The energy savings involved equates to saving 7,397 pounds of carbon-dioxide or the equivalent of planting 55 trees.
â€śThatâ€™s about two-thirds of what we usually use in a month, so this is really going to help cut our energy costs,â€ť Okazaki said.
This also officially makes the Humane Society of Jefferson County one of the few animal shelters in the entire country to be powered primarily by renewable energy.
Meanwhile, that energy savings leaves more money available to provide direct care for the shelterâ€™s animals.
And during the pandemic and the related economic downturn, the Humane Society of Jefferson County is working to make sure that people who are affected by the current recession can continue to feed and care for their beloved pets.
â€śWe have resources available for people who couldnâ€™t otherwise afford to keep their pets,â€ť Okazaki said.
While the main goal of the project is to increase the shelterâ€™s energy efficiency, the initiative will have side benefits as well, Okazaki said.
One of these will be disaster preparedness.
This solar system will allow the shelter to generate power even if the grid goes down, he said.
It also will provide the opportunity for the shelter to play a greater role in assisting local residents and their pets in the event of a disaster.
For more information on the project or donation opportunities, people may contact Okazaki at Jeff@HSJC-wis.com or by phone at (920) 674-2048. Checks written to â€śHSJCâ€ť may be sent to W6127 Kiesling Road, Jefferson, WI, 53539.
Serving communities since 1922, the Humane Society of Jefferson County helps save, serve and provide â€śforever homesâ€ť to more than 1,000 animals in need each year.