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COTS gets more solar

COTSvets4-website2Matt Brown - Argus-Courier - June 22, 2017

Petaluma, CA - The Committee on the Shelterless is getting free solar panels at one of the Petaluma veteran’s homes it operates, a project that is expected to save the nonprofit money while helping reduce carbon emissions.

Nonprofit Everybody Solar is working with COTS to install the panels at the home off North McDowell Boulevard. The San Francisco-based organization last year helped COTS install solar panels at the Mary Isaak Center homeless shelter.

Mike Johnson, COTS CEO, said that the total savings between the two projects will help the nonprofit continue to operate during a time of lean budgets. COTS has faced funding cuts and had to petition to keep $70,000 in city funding, which it will likely not get next year. “It’s hard to find funding for overhead, things like utility bills,” Johnson said. “Energy independence is good for the agency. It will add up to significant savings.”

In November, workers installed a 19.5-kilowatt upgrade to the existing rooftop system at the Mary Isaak Center, a project that doubled the amount of solar power produced at the building. The larger array is saving COTS around $20,000 in electricity costs every year, Johnson said. Youness Scally, executive director of Everybody Solar, said that COTS was an easy choice to partner with because of the many services the organization provides to Petaluma’s homeless population.

“What struck us was their wide breadth of services to help people get back on their feet,” he said. “Our mission is to provide solar to great local charities, take tangible action on climate change and put the energy savings back to use in the community.” Scally said that the $75,000 project was largely crowed funded. Petaluma-based Enphase Energy and JinkoSolar donated components for the project.

Besides cost savings, Johnson said the project also has the benefit of allowing COTS to reduce its carbon footprint, one of the organization’s goals. The solar system will offset the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to planting 1,333 trees. “We get the green benefit on one side and the cost benefit translates to more resources,” he said. “It’s a brilliant concept. I hope to see more of it.”
Johnson said he hopes COTS’ other three Petaluma properties will get solar panels in the near future. After the project is complete this summer, COTS will hold a ribbon cutting at the Mary Isaak Center on Aug. 5.

As COTS tries to maintain its level of service while tightening its belt, Johnson said every bit helps.
“In lean times, these are the creative things you have to do to stay nimble and keep the lights on,” he said.