The solar panels United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay (UCP) recently installed on the roof of its warehouse near the Napa airport are expected to generate about 102,630 kilowatt hours of energy annually—enough each day to power the equivalent of 31 average homes. By generating its own power, the organization will spare the air nearly 45 tons of harmful greenhouse gases annually. Over the next 30 years, the air pollution prevented as a result of the solar panels will be equivalent to eliminating over 3 million miles of driving. And, more directly, UCP’s energy costs will be drastically reduced, allowing the nonprofit to utilize more of its funds to invest in job creation for people with disabilities.
“We are grateful for the support of the Gasser Foundation and our collaboration with Sustainable Napa County, which made this achievement possible. The completion of our energy analysis and solar installation marks an important milestone for our agency as we strive to support our communities with good stewardship of our resources,” said Margaret Farman, executive director, United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay. “By reducing our energy costs, we can put our resources toward our goal of increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities so they may achieve a ‘life without limits.’”
UCP’s mission is to “enhance the quality of life of people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, their families, and their communities." The nonprofit believes that individuals with even the most challenging disabilities have the right to quality education and transition services, integrated employment opportunities with competitive wages and career opportunities, and accessible recreation programs. UCP promotes full inclusion in community life by providing resource and referral, advocacy and community integration services.
The solar panels were installed on the roof of its business, WineBev Services
, which provides packaging services for the wine industry and other business partners while employing people with disabilities at market-rate wages. Services include repacking, hand labeling, mobile bottling line support and other jobs.
UCP purchased the warehouse near the Napa Airport in 2010. Currently, WineBev Services occupies 30 percent of the building and employs up to 138 people with disabilities. UCP intends to continue to grow the business and expand the operation into more of the building, thus expanding the workforce of people with disabilities; other sections of the warehouse will be rented out to create an additional revenue stream for the nonprofit.
In addition to adding the solar panels, UCP worked with SNC, Napa County Energy Watch (NCEW) and The Energy Alliance Association (TEAA), which reviewed the facility and recommended UCP implement a lighting retrofit expected to save nearly $4,500 per year. “Simple changes like putting the warehouse lights on a sensor are so much more energy efficient,” says Mike Lisenko, president of business operations for WineBev Services. Even better, Lisenko said, “with support from the Gasser Foundation and rebates for lighting, our initial investment was essentially zero out of pocket for these energy improvements.”
An extra benefit for an organization committed to sustainability, is the knowledge that the benefits to their bottom line as well as to the atmosphere will continue well into the future. “With the nice weather, there are very few days that we’re not generating a lot of power.,” says Lisenko. “In fact, currently, we’re generating much more power than we need.”
UCP’s other social enterprise, Fairfield-based Gone for Good
, also reflects UCP’s commitment to sustainability. The business provides secure document destruction, eWaste deconstruction, document imaging, printing and mailing. “Because of Gone For Good eWaste, over a million pounds of materials are recycled annually and kept out of the landfill,” Farman said. Gone For Good recycles enough paper to save over 18,000 trees, turns 1,872,000 lbs. of eWaste into renewable materials (not landfill), and prints/mails over 10 million cards to households, encouraging curbside donations of reusable goods to support the UCP nonprofit.