A new solar-powered system has been installed onto the roof of the main office building at the Jump Park in Forest with the hope that it will eventually offset all of the power bills for the Forest Youth Athletic Association.
The panels and labor were donated by Earth Right Mid-Atlantic: Powered by Convert Solar, a Lynchburg-based energy-efficiency and solar-power company.
Shane Durie, a solar power consultant for the company, said the building is perfect for solar panels since it has a long, unobstructed roof that mostly faces south and has no trees casting shade on it.
“The whole point of solar power and energy efficiency is to help people lower their power bills or to give them an alternative to just sending a check to the power company every month for the rest of their life,” he said.
The company was looking for an opportunity to do something good for the community and especially for kids.
“If we can reduce how much money they have to spend on power bills every single month, then they can use that money to do bigger and better things for kids and for the fields,” Durie said.
Shannon Ellis, executive director for the Forest Youth Athletic Association, said a common misconception the community has is that the nonprofit association is funded by Bedford County Parks and Recreation.
She said the two have a partnership, the association plays under their umbrella and uses their fields, but the association has a considerable amount of overhead it pays each month for mortgage on the land and utilities, which equals about $14,000 per month.
The association provides recreational sports for youths ages 5 to 18. Sports offered include soccer, baseball, softball, flag football, tackle football, cheerleading, basketball and lacrosse.
The association, located at 3372 Thomas Jefferson Rd., has five baseball/softball fields, one tee-ball field, one football field, three soccer fields and three multi-purpose fields for lacrosse and flag football.
The 10,000-square-foot main office building houses a conference room, Ellis’ office, a concession stand and an umpire room and makes up the highest portion of the electric bill, Ellis said.
On Friday, the solar company installed about 25 panels onto the building, each panel able to generate 320 watts.
Corey Argentino, an owner of Earth Right Mid-Atlantic, said a job of this size would cost about $35,000. He said giving back to the community has always been important to him and the choice to give back to the association was nostalgic for him since he spent most of his youth playing sports.
His hope is that the solar panels will help shrink the carbon footprint at the association and will reduce energy costs so it can reinvest that money into youth athletics.
“We can help our youth to understand the importance of renewable energy and see that solar is actually cool and not just something people in Florida or California do,” he said.
Ellis said the donation will help the association be more energy-efficient and any savings will be reinvested back into the facility, which in turn, helps the community.
“We’re so excited about it,” she said. “We couldn’t exist without community support; there’s just no way. We are so grateful. This is a tremendous donation and will have a long-term impact to our facility.”