Solar panel installation heats water for LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club
“It helps trees grow tall!” “The earth rotates around it!”
“Flowers need it to be pretty!”
These are just a few things kids know about the power of the sun. Soon at the Augusta M. LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club, located at 2739 N. 15th St., its members will learn how solar energy can heat an entire building’s water supply thanks to Focus on Energy, City of Milwaukee – Milwaukee Shines, We Energies and Johnson Controls.
On Monday, June 14 at 11 a.m., Milwaukee Common Council president Willie Hines and other dignitaries helped Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee’s (BGCGM) president & CEO Jim Clark celebrate the organization’s first foray into renewable energy at a press conference held at the LaVarnway Club. Afterwards, local media were invited to view the installation on its roof.
The adoption of “green” or renewable energy complements ongoing efforts by the Boys & Girls Clubs. Its 38 Club locations already recycle paper, glass and aluminum. Through its Outdoor and Environmental Education programs, Club youth learn about the earth, how nature benefits all and the importance of protecting the environment. Plus, the Clubs’ Arts programs have created artwork made out of materials such plastic shopping bags and t-shirts.
In continuance with its current efforts, BGCGM is one of the participating agencies involved in the City of Milwaukee’s Solar America Cities program, Milwaukee Shines. Solar America Cities is a partnership program of the U.S. Department of Energy that provides financial and technical assistance to 25 U.S. cities committed to accelerating the adoption of solar energy technologies. Visit Solar America Cities online at www.solaramericacities.energy.gov.
The LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club is the first solar water heating demonstration project funded by Milwaukee Shines through the Solar America Cities’ “special projects” award. The LaVarnway solar hot water installation is a “drainback” system, contains 24 4’x10’ panels and produces almost 3,000 therms, offsetting approximately 15 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
“Conventional water heaters can be very polluting,” says Andrea Luecke, project manager for Milwaukee Shines. “It is estimated that the average family of four contributes approximately two tons of CO2 emissions each year because of them. Although solar hot water systems cost more than electric or gas heaters, once the solar systems are installed utility costs are often dramatically reduced.”
“The City of Milwaukee – Milwaukee Shines is proud to partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs and co-fund these solar installations. This partnership not only results in improved air quality for Milwaukee, but also in the cultivation of a new generation of inspired youth whose innovation may ultimately transform the market,” adds Luecke.
The solar hot water installation at LaVarnway and the soon-to-be completed identical solar hot water installation at the Don & Sallie Davis Boys & Girls Club, located at 1975 W. Rogers St., were made possible by Focus on Energy, City of Milwaukee – Milwaukee Shines, We Energies and Johnson Controls grants.
“Part of helping young people reach their full potential requires doing what we can to maximize our resources while saving money,” says Jim Clark. “With the solar panels at our LaVarnway and Davis Boys & Girls Clubs, the energy savings will allow us to reinvest funds into programs that enrich young lives.” According to BGCGM estimates, the projected cumulative fuel cost savings is more than $445,000 over the next 30 years for the two buildings’ hot water cost compared to heating with natural gas.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is the oldest and largest youth-serving agency in Milwaukee. It offers after-school and summer programming for children ages 6-18, focusing on those who have major life obstacles, most often poverty. The Clubs operates 38 sites, which include six primary locations, 30 school sites, Camp Whitcomb/ Mason in Hartland and an extension site at the Ethan Allen School for Boys in Wales. Membership to the Clubs is only $5 per year, per child, but no one is ever turned away based on inability to pay. For more information, visit the Club’s Web site at www.boysgirlsclubs.org.