The Flemington Area Food Pantry in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, celebrated and unveiled its brand new solar system this week – a project made possible through a joint fundraiser between prominent solar industry leaders and community volunteers who each provided their individual components. Of all the parties that helped make the installation a reality, the pantry has one particular thank you – Evan Kuster, a student at North Hunterdon High School.
“As a pantry volunteer, I knew they had significant electricity bills for their fridges and freezers, and I thought solar power might save their budget,” shared Kuster, a student at North Hunterdon High School, Class of 2022 works for a solar energy development company called Merit SI and suggested that we ask for donations to help fund the system. “
Who helped So the Kusters asked and the leaders of the solar industry answered. A number of project partners, including First Solar, OMCO Solar, SMA America and Pro Circuit Electrical Contracting, have joined the project. Together they donated an entire solar array to the pantry, which relieved an annual electricity bill of $ 10,556 (2019). With the new 33 kW system, these funds can now be used to purchase groceries for the community – enough to prepare 6,360 meals.
Jeannine Gorman, General Manager of the Flemington Area Food Pantry, highlighted the severity of this new asset. “Every dollar we spend on our electricity bills is one less dollar we can spend on groceries for the community,” Gorman said. “We fulfill our mission every day. It is so motivating for us to know that professionals have enough time to donate their time, talent, and supplies so that we can continue to serve the needs of our community. “
This generosity could not have been more timely given the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 400 new registrants in the pantry between March and May, and their customers increased by 30 percent in the first six months of the year. According to Ms. Gorman, “the desperation on families’ faces as they had to ask for help” was evidence that the pandemic was debilitating, stretching many to levels of hardship they had not experienced before.
Tom Kuster, CEO of Merit SI and Evans father, was proud to be driving the project forward. “Dealing with this global pandemic has undoubtedly been daunting for all Americans, but it has been especially difficult for underserved and vulnerable communities,” Kuster said. “At Merit SI, we believe that our role as corporate citizens is to mobilize workers and provide assistance wherever the need is greatest.”
Donations to the Flemington Area Food Pantry are very welcome. Please visit the donation page.
Merit SI provided the design and engineering of the infrastructure, but also acted as the coordinator and brought many key players on board to achieve this. “We are grateful to our partners for donating their time, expertise and solutions to this project, which will greatly help this community in this difficult and unprecedented time,” noted Kuster.
The advanced thin film solar modules were donated by First Solar, Inc., America’s Solar Company. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Arizona, the company operates the largest solar factory in the western hemisphere in northwest Ohio. It is also the only American company among the nine largest solar manufacturers in the world. The modules used in the installation were designed and developed in the company’s research and development centers in California and Ohio, and have the lowest environmental footprint in the industry.
OMCO Solar, a community and utility OEM of solar tracker and racking solutions, assembled the pantry. Eric Goodwin, Director of Solar Business Development, agreed with the internal program “OMCO Cares” and expressed the company’s pleasure in participating. “Energy bills can be a burden for many households, especially now, so it’s a great opportunity to bring solar energy into a community resource like the pantry to give back,” he said. “We are particularly grateful to the Merit SI team for including OMCO Solar in this effort, and we are proud to be working with them to complete this project.”
The system technology specialist SMA America donated the Sunny Tripower CORE1 inverter. SMA is based in Germany, but also operates in the USA. SMA has been selling first-class PV inverters for 30 years and is innovative in the field of intelligent energy management.
Pro Circuit Electrical Contracting installed the array and donated all electrical and general work. The Flemington, New Jersey team is a leading contractor specializing in commercial and industrial solar power work.
“I am amazed at the cooperation between the many companies that have committed themselves to the project. I would like to thank all donors and the people who made this possible,” said Evan Kuster. “It was a positive light for all of us to help our neighbors while eliminating the effects of climate change.”