Years of Organizing Culminates with the Installation of Community-Funded Solar Power System at ISAAC DICKSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
The much-anticipated solar electric system placing solar panels at an Asheville public school has been installed on the roof of Asheville’s Isaac Dickson Elementary School. In January of 2015, Sundance Power Systems was awarded the contract for the project which lacked the funding from Buncombe County to be completed with the initial school construction project. Thanks to a community fundraising campaign led by Sundance and the Green Built Alliance’s Appalachian Offsets program, the system was successfully funded and the project was completed in 2021.
Sundance has worked for 26 years to establish and promote renewable energy in the WNC region. Sundance strives to empower our communities through the adoption of renewable energy systems. Appalachian Offsets funds renewable-energy projects and energy-efficiency upgrades in Western North Carolina schools, nonprofits and low-income housing by pooling money contributed by local businesses and individuals through its voluntary carbon-offset program to install solar panels at an Asheville public school . This partnership has wielded success in developing the first truly community solar project in the region funded exclusively by local parents, teachers, concerned citizens, local philanthropists and the school system.
Appalachian Offsets finished fundraising for the Isaac Dickson solar project — its largest undertaking to date — in late 2019. (Check out this feature from them.) “It was critical to partner with Appalachian Offsets to fundraise for this project. Sam and the whole team at Green Built Alliance rallied to organize crucial community fundraising” says Dave Hollister, President of Sundance Power Systems. “Over two years, more than 100 donors contributed directly to make this project happen,” Green Built Alliance Executive Director Sam Ruark-Eastes said. “This was a collective effort and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our many donors who all reached deep into their pockets to fund this effort. We are so grateful to live in a place that values clean energy for schools.”
Isaac Dickson was designed as one of the state’s first Net Zero Energy schools and has been awaiting the solar system to help it move toward manifesting that vision since it was built in 2015. Following the recent approval of the long-awaited interconnection agreement from Duke Energy, the system was installed by Sundance Power Systems on the school’s roof. Work began in early March 2021 and completed in May 2021. The system has been producing beautiful clean power since June 2021!
The solar system at IDES is 300 kW photovoltaic array on several roofs with a total investment of $428,000. Appalachian Offsets and Sundance coordinated the fundraising efforts, collecting $305,000 through a variety of community contributions. The project is also being made possible through a $75,000 rebate from Duke Energy as well as Asheville City Schools’ allocation of $48,000 in energy-efficiency rebates it received for the energy-efficient construction of Isaac Dickson.
The solar array is a net-metered system, resulting in the school’s electric bill being lowered by more than $30,000 per year with a 30-year savings of more than $1.3 million, according to Sundance Power Systems. Through an agreement with Buncombe County, the money saved on Isaac Dickson’s electric bills is scheduled to go back into the school’s operating budget.
“The Isaac Dickson project is an expression of the dedication and commitment of this community for taking action against climate change and to leverage this technology to benefit our school system for years to come,” Sundance Power Systems President Dave Hollister said. “With the leadership of the Green Built Alliance and its Appalachian Offsets program, teachers and concerned citizens were able to raise the money for the project. This is community solar at its best.”
In addition to reducing the school’s energy bills, Isaac Dickson will leverage the asset as a teaching resource by weaving student involvement into the installation process and data from the on-site solar system into curriculum for students.
“Installing a rooftop solar system will fulfill the architects’ vision of using the school building itself as learning tool that can be used to facilitate discussions about our environment and conservation, as well as the impacts of fossil fuel consumption not just on our climate but also on our air and water quality,” said Isaac Dickson parent Matt Menne, who played an integral role in fundraising efforts during his time as co-president of the school’s PTO. “What better way to help than by reducing the carbon footprint of our schools, which provides the added benefit of saving money on energy costs for the district in the long run.”
As of 8/2021:
CO2 Emission Saved: 77,964.36 lb
Equivalent Trees Planted: 589.09