Fairgrounds looks to add 77 solar panels on Knights Building

This is a computer rendering of what the Knights Building at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds will look like with 77 solar panels installed on the roof.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 30 January 2023 at 2:41 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds is about to make history as the first fairgrounds in the country to have solar panels installed by a company that was founded to provide solar energy free of charge to non-profits.

Everybody Solar was founded 11 years ago by Youness Scally of California to focus on non-profits because traditionally, nonprofits did not receive government tax breaks for going solar. That is because as a 501c3, they are exempt from paying taxes, said Scally’s sister Myriam Scally, executive director of Everybody Solar.

He was hoping to fight climate change and support at least one nonprofit in going solar, Myriam said. This year, however, she said things may change because Biden in August executed a new order that nonprofits can benefit from the full tax credit on solar projects. She said, though, the process is still uncertain as the Treasury has not yet provided full guidance.

Youness began contacting foundations, corporations and donors soliciting funds to install solar panels on non-profits’ properties at no cost to them. They have since provided free solar power to 14 nonprofits in 12 states, including Glacier National Park, museums and Native American reservations. Their first expansion was at the Science Center in Ithaca, Myriam said.

Photo by Virginia Kropf: Robert Batt, director of Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, looks at information online about Everybody Solar, a company which secures funding to install solar panels for non-profits throughout the country. The Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds is working to become the first fairgrounds in the country to have solar panels installed by Everybody Solar.

Robert Batt, director of Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, said he has always been interested in solar, he said. He first learned about Everybody Solar in the fall of 2021 at the YMCA’a Camp Cory in Penn Yan. There, according to information from Myriam, 100 percent of the camp’s electrical needs are offset by solar power during the off season, reducing their bill to near zero for six months of the year.

Batt returned and brought the idea of solar panels to his board and they approved the idea.

“We have this big beautiful roof, so why don’t we have solar panels?” Batt wondered.

The Extension will have 77 solar panels installed on the roof of the Knights Building. Installation will begin as soon as fundraising is complete. The total cost of the project is $57,665, with $28,403 already raised. This includes $10,000 pledged by Cornell Cooperative Extension’s board, Batt said.

Batt explained they have two meters at the fairgrounds, one for the exhibit buildings and the other for the Dwight Hill office building. The solar panels will serve the fairgrounds, not only reducing or nearly eliminating their power bill, but providing an environmental impact reduction. The first year of production is estimated to be 29,145 KW hours, or 103 percent of the fair’s usage. This translates to an environmental impact of offsetting 22.7 tons of CO2/year; 527.5 trees; and 47.8 barrels of oil.

Everybody Solar’s goal is to reduce operating costs for nonprofits, making them more sustainable so they can do more charitable work in their communities, and to protect the environment, Myriam said.

“We’re excited about this project,” she said.

The modules are in the process of being shipped and panels will be shipped when funding is completed.

Myriam said they hope to have all the funds by fall and will aim for installation shortly after. Anyone wishing to make a donation may do so by logging on to everybodysolar.org and clicking on Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension on their project page. On that page is an option to “donate here.” Or donations made be made at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension and designated for “solar project.”

Not only does Everybody Solar work to offset 100 percent of the costs to nonprofits through grant-writing, sponsorships, crowd-sourcing and fundraising events, but they work directly with industry experts to research local regulations, contact and evaluate solar installers, establish long-term partnerships with manufacturers and provide technical support to the nonprofits to make sure the installations come to life.

Paradise Energy Solutions of Geneva has been hired to do the work.