The morning of Feb. 10 dawned cold, frosty and just perfect for a solar installation.
Thirteen volunteers, including a student intern, a school teacher and a group of local solar professionals, showed up at Bitney Prep High School to help put solar modules on the roof of the school’s Science and Humanities Building.
“The best part about this project,” said school director Russ Jones, carrying a solar panel across the parking lot, “is that it’s free — absolutely free.”
Using funds from California Proposition 39, designed to improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation in schools, plus the design, engineering and installation resources of local nonprofit Good Sun Solar, Bitney received a 12kW solar system without having to use any general funds, Jones said.
“This means we don’t have to cut back on our existing programs, and, over time, the monthly savings on our utility bills will allow us to add new programs and increase salaries for our staff,” he said.
“This was our first big installation in town,” said Eric Stikes, founder of Good Sun Solar. “Our mission is to provide free and low-cost solar power to nonprofits and low-income households in this region by repurposing older solar systems, utilizing volunteer labor and working closely with our nonprofit partners to find creative solutions.”
They say good things come in threes. At Bitney Prep High School, a small public charter school located in Grass Valley’s Glenbrook Basin, that means positive news on three grants, all in just one week.
“The first good grant news came from the Soroptimist International in the Sierra Foothills, our local chapter,” said Russ Jones, Bitney’s director. “It will support a new fund we’ve created to support our families during urgent or crisis situations by providing them with free mental health counseling.”
Several local mental health practitioners have already signed on to be part of a network of support for Bitney families, agreeing to a substantial reduction in their usual fees so that the fund can provide up to 70 vouchers for counseling sessions.
“We hope this acts as a bridge for families as they transition to county services or negotiate with their insurance companies,” Jones said.
Just days later, another piece of good news arrived from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar In Your Community program in the form of technical assistance grant for $10,000.
“Working with the folks at Bitney, especially with Scott Young (a full-time teacher and advisor) has really opened my eyes to what a small organization can accomplish when they’ve got entrepreneurial spirit,” said Eric Stikes, leader of the Local Power team which won the grant.