Solar panels give a bright future for YES Club

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NEWARK — Since its start 23 years ago, the YES Club of downtown Newark has been providing a positive educational environment for the children of Licking County. With its latest project, the club is looking toward not just its own future, but that of the community.

In the last two months, the members of YES Club managed to raise enough funding to install solar panels on their roof. The panels, which were installed and inspected last week, are almost ready to be switched on.

“(Newark) Code enforcement came through and tested the panels,” said Jeremy King, sustainability coordinator at Denison University. “Now we’re just waiting on the go ahead from (American Electric Power) to throw the switch.”

But even if the panels aren’t producing energy yet, YES Club director Bethanne Leffel-Ployhar said the project’s effect can already be felt and seen at the clubhouse.

“The children are very proud of this project. It really gives them a sense of accomplishment,” Leffel-Ployhar said.

King said the children had been involved from the beginning of the project.

“They created the artwork for the fundraising campaign, they helped spread the word, and they were there for the installation of the panels,” King said.

Leffel-Ployhar said the installed panels give the YES Club “ways to springboard the children’s education.”

Other than the obvious energy savings, she hopes the panels will act as a conduit to the community.

“People always talk about how solar panels are too ugly to install at their properties or just too inconvenient to be any good. Hopefully, these panels can change their minds and they can see the benefits for the community,” Penny Sitler, executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County.

“People driving by can look over at the clubhouse and see the panels. They’ll definitely see them, and from there, they can reach out and get more involved,” Leffel-Ployhar said.

In addition to climate influence and energy sustainability enlightenment, the YES club director said the panels will be used as teaching devices for the kids in finance, budgeting and bookkeeping.

“The YES Club has a definite high school component,” she said, “and the kids will be able to monitor the output and savings the panels provide the clubhouse. After they’ve seen the data, they can budget accordingly.”

Licking County has seen an increase of solar panel installations in the past few years.

Weekley Electric in Newark has its own array, and the AEP office in Heath also has some panels.

Denison University is awaiting a court decision before moving ahead with its 6,000-panel project. Lakewood High School finished the installation of its solar panel array just last year.

King said that that collection of panels generates around 600 kilowatts, while the YES Club’s installation only generates about 12 kW.

“The YES Club panels should be able to cover about one-fourth to about one-third of the clubhouse’s energy costs,” King said, adding the savings would be about $2,000 a year. Those savings will be put back into the program, both King and Leffel-Ployhar said.

Sitler hope the new panels “spark the interest of students in some science careers.”

The club has already seen an increase in volunteers, although Lefel-Ployhar did not know whether that was because of the panels, but she is grateful for the increased awareness the project has generated.

“The YES Club is an important part of children’s lives. We touch about 60 lives a day. This is just an amazing opportunity to help children and reach out to the community,” she said.

Barrett Lawlis, Reporter

Found in The Newark Advocate October 2, 2015

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