Menno Haven’s green team helped make solar power a reality

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At the Ridgeview Retirement Community of Mennohaven, a close-knit group of like-minded activists have a reason to celebrate.

This “green team” convinced the board of directors of Menno Haven and a community of residents to raise enough funds to install a 53.6 kW solar panel system, consisting of 134 solar panels on top of the Menno Life Center. Haven.

John Luetzelschwab has been the Green Team coordinator for years. About 90% of the residents of the community supported the effort, he said.

Menno Haven installed solar panels on one of its newest buildings - the Life Center at 300 Ridgeview Avenue.

Each year, the electricity produced by the solar system will offset 47 tonnes of CO2, or 99.2 barrels of oil. This is equivalent to saving 1,094 trees, according to a press release.

The solar panels, installed by Paradise Energy Solutions, will produce 60,000 kWh, which will provide more than $ 4,000 of electricity each year. In addition, the system can earn Menno Haven an additional $ 1,000 each year through the sale of renewable solar energy credits.

The Green Team started its sustainability work in 2010 when it pushed residents to start recycling.

“We started with recycling paper,” said Luetzelschwab. “We then started to encourage further recycling. We have started to recycle all batteries. We do a drug drive twice a year and usually generate about two or three gallons of drugs for the police to come to campus and pick them up. “

Solar power is just part of a bigger picture, Luetzelschwab said.

Green Team members Rachel Hermann, Wayne Mackey, Susan Howell, Don Parrish, John Luetzelschwab, Bill Freeman and Truman Eddy meet regularly to brainstorm ideas to make their community in Menno Haven more environmentally friendly.

Wayne Mackey, another member of the Green Team, suggested the idea when he moved to Menno Haven and realized that there was a group focused on green living.

“I was surprised by the green team and I was like, ‘wow, this is something that could really interest me,'” he said. “I met John and we spent months emailing each other about the benefits of solar power. We basically wanted to reduce the size of our carbon footprint here at Menno Haven.”

Mackey and his wife installed solar panels on their home in Chambersburg in 2009.

“We were actually the first house in the Chambersburg borough to install solar power on our house,” he said. “In 2011 we added more solar panels. We ended up with 43 solar panels on the roof of our house and the roof of our garage. I bought a Chevrolet Volt and powered it with eight panels. solar panels on the garage roof. In early 2018, the US Department of Energy awarded us the Net Zero Energy House. “

Don Parrish, another member of the Green Team, also explained the financial benefit.

“It cuts a small part of the cost of electricity, but nonetheless, some are better than nothing,” he said. “Everyone lives in Menno Haven, so it’s in their best interests to see solar power benefit everyone.”

Parrish also raised the idea of ​​encouraging the switch to electric vehicles.

“If we can get a powerful solar source, we could use some of it to power electric vehicles and modify our fleet here in Menno Haven,” he said.

Hugh Davis, CEO of Menno Haven, said the group played an important role in these changes.

“I learned a lot from them about corporate responsibility and Menno Haven’s responsibility as an organization to leave a better footprint for the next generation,” he said. “John has been on our board a few times. Seeing this advocacy from the residents’ perspective and with the board, for this shared vision, is a very powerful part of our story. “

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Davis and the Green Team hope to add more solar panels to the Menno Haven campus in the future.

Davis explained that a partnership with another entity would be necessary for a larger-scale installation, but that it could be beneficial for everyone involved.

“For solar to become somewhat economical for us, we will really have to do it on a large scale in order to achieve these efficiencies, but also find a partner who might be willing to finance the infrastructure and take advantage of the benefits. tax credits in exchange, ”he said.

Luetzelschwab said they are looking for any opportunities that could help make Menno Haven greener.

“In the short term, we hope to apply for a grant for environmental sustainability from West Penn,” he said. “With that, we could add more to the roof.”

In addition to the solar project, Menno Haven just completed construction of a 1,200 square foot greenhouse – adding to the model of self-sufficiency.

Another aspect of sustainability on the Menno Haven campus is the newly constructed greenhouse.

Residents Will and Mary Hockersmith donated the funds to build the structure, complete with a fully automated system, a drilled well for clean watering, and raised beds surrounding the building.

The green team, always looking for an opportunity to collaborate, plans to launch a campus-wide composting program that will benefit greenhouse gardeners.

Sustainable living is a way of life for many residents of Menno Haven, including Will Hockersmith, who spends much of his time in the community greenhouse exercising his green thumb.

Mackey explained why the Green Team feels so compelled to reduce its carbon footprint.

“We are very environmentally conscious about what we pass on to future generations,” he said.

Carley Bonk is a Watchdog Reporter for the USA Today Network – Pennsylvania. Its coverage spans the entire region of south-central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @carls_marie.



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