YSB solar panels signal greater push for green energy

League of Women Voters Climate Team members Helen Hudson and John Smillie run a check on the newly installed solar panel system on the roof of the Youth Service Bureau.

Nick Wilson/Journal Review

Nick Wilson | [email protected]

A donation with a purpose from an “average” citizen has enabled the Youth Service Bureau to save thousands on energy consumption while providing a potentially endless cash flow for the kids of Montgomery County.

The average citizen, John Smillie, serves the League of Women Voters and is an avid member of the group’s Climate Team. Together, with the help of Marc and Helen Hudson, YSB Director Karen Branch and Community Foundation Director Kelly Taylor, the team put together a plan for a 9.9-kilowatt installation on the roof of the bureau.

Though the process has been stymied by weather, illness and supply chain issues, the array was installed last week following six months of headaches.

“It feels good to be investing both in clean power and the youth. It’s like a double win for the future,” Smillie said. “Karen has graciously shepherded the project, which has taken a bit longer than I expected, but it’s in the final stages now.”

Anticipated savings will be approximately $125 a month, depending on the season. The savings open up additional funds which Branch said will benefit the cultivation of positivity in youth for decades to come.

“John has given us the gift that keeps on giving, and freeing up that money to be able to use to help youth in our community is wonderful,” Branch said. “It’s a gift in savings on utilities, but the bigger gift is that we can use that money to help more youth. That’s huge.”

Smillie explained Thursday that 9.9-kilowatt hours can power the average home, which uses about 6 kilowatts a day. The system now atop the YSB is set to produce up to 13 megawatts of electricity a year.

The installation is hardly the first in Crawfordsville and Montgomery County. As a state leader in green energy, Crawfordsville is setting the bar high and providing crucial models for other cities and states to follow.

With installations in, out and around the city, Crawfordsville produces more solar electricity than it needs.

“We are currently generating 27 megawatts, and our normal daily load is about 50. We are the only city in the state that produces over half of our daily load from solar,” Hudson said, citing a recent conversation with Mayor Todd Barton.

The Hudsons, with the help of Taylor at MCCF, have created the Solar Power to the People Fund to give residents another outlet when moving away from fossil fuels.

The fund is just one of many ways Crawfordsville residents can donate toward the movement of green energy, especially when considering net metering will evaporate from state law this summer.

“If people want to support solar, there’s at least four things they can do,” Smillie said. “They can look into doing their own house; you can look into donating panels to a nonprofit or your church; and you can donate to the MCCF Solar Power to the People Fund.

“And a fourth one that anybody can do, if you’re on [Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power], you can call them and join their Green Power Rider program.”

Through the program, customers can choose a small amount to add onto their monthly bill, which then goes toward Indiana Municipal Power Agency solar installations throughout the state.

“I pay an extra $2 a month, and that amount flows back to IMPA solar projects … to reduce our reliance on things like coal and provide cheaper power,” Smillie said. “Solar, when it runs, is the cheapest power available. For that $2 a month I get to say that I run on green power and that I support solar development.”

Thanks to Smillie and the Hudsons, Branch said she and the bureau’s board of trustees are eager to see what the extra funds can do for the children of Montgomery County.

Those who wish to donate to the Solar Power to the People fund at MCCF may do so by visiting www.mccf-in.org/environmental-funds.

For more information, contact MCCF at 765-362-1267, or CEL&P at 765-362-1900.

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