Catholic Action Center among first U.S. homeless shelters to be solar powered
Solar energy will soon power one of Lexington’s largest homeless shelters.
The Catholic Action Center said Thursday that its shelter on Industry Road near Eastland Shopping Center will begin using solar energy as its primary source of power as soon as next week.
Former state Auditor Adam Edelen, whose consulting firm helped coordinate the project, said the shelter is one of the first in the nation to “go solar,” and that no other shelter has converted to solar power “without public subsidy.”
The $75,000 project was financed by Traditional Bank and will pay for itself in five to seven years, Edelen estimated.
Installation of 100 solar panels began Monday at the 130-bed shelter, which moved to its current location in April. The project is expected to be completed by July 7, said Ginny Ramsey, co-founder and director of Catholic Action Center.
The center expects to receive credit on its electric bill for 30 kilowatts of solar power generated each month, the maximum allowed by Kentucky’s net-metering policy. Under net-metering, homes and businesses with solar panels put the excess power they generate onto the electric grid, and receive, in exchange, a credit on the power they need when the sun isn’t shining.
Other states have higher maximums, such as 1,000 kilowatts in Indiana and no limit in Ohio, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Ramsey said she had been exploring the possibility of using solar power at the shelter for several months, but officially began the process when President Donald Trump announced on June 1 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Ramsey said making the shelter’s energy footprint “as small as possible” is in line with the center’s central mission.
“That’s one of our core beliefs, is care for God’s creation, and we try to live that,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said the solar panels will significantly reduce electricity bills for the shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and houses a large kitchen and laundry room.
“On the best of months, we’ll see a $3,000 reduction on the utility bill,” Ramsey said.
John Barfield, who has been staying at the shelter for nearly a month, sings in the center’s choir and assisted with a reception Thursday to announce the solar project.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Barfield said. “Just using … what God is sending down and less emission.”
Edelen said the project is happening despite Kentucky’s slow acceptance of alternative energy sources.
“In a state that lacks incentives that most other states have for renewable energy, this is happening anyway,” Edelen said. “The community is not waiting on our leaders to drive innovation in our energy space.”
Monica Kast: 859-231-1320, @monicakastwku