Greenfield / Afton
Nelson County, Virginia
Rockfish Valley Community Center’s “Rock & Sol” solar energy pilot project, for which fundraising began over a year ago, became very real on Monday, January 8 with the beginning of the solar panel array installation on the East roof of the Center in Afton.
The project, which was initially designed by project collaborator SunTribe Solar, LLC as a 24-panel array of photovoltaic cells, was the brainchild of a then-15 year-old NCHS rising sophomore named Arlo Bloom, who dreamed of making a positive impact on his community through a project that would reduce its carbon footprint and promote alternative energy generation.
Teaming up with the Center’s Building & Grounds Committee, Arlo helped persuade the facility’s Board of Directors that a solar energy project would be a productive, cost-effective and well-received follow-up effort to the Center’s “Green Initiative” project, which restored or replaced all of the windows in RVCC’s main building, rehabilitated its geothermal heating and cooling system and completed the re-insulation of all of the steam pipes beneath the Center’s floors.
Throughout the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017, Arlo worked closely with Center staff in the development of the fundraising and marketing campaign for Rock & Sol, developing a Power Point presentation for potential donors and traveling as far as the Canaan Valley in West Virginia to promote the project to prospective foundations. He also took an active role in direct fundraising appeals for project donations locally.
The project’s initial fundraising goal of $18,144, including $3,000 to be raised from local donations, was exceeded by early April of last year, with a $20,000 gift from an anonymous foundation. Additional grants from the Schaeneman Foundation, the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge and the Bama Works Fund of the Dave Matthews Band, plus an outpouring of over $5,000 in support from the local community, swelled total project receipts to more than double the fundraising goal.
The success of the fundraising effort has enabled project engineers to greatly expand the planned array to 44 panels, with the potential of generating over 17,000 kWh – equating to over 11% – of the Center’s growing annual electrical needs. Once inspected and approved, the project is expected to be fully operational in mid-February.
In the middle of his sophomore year, and in the midst of the Rock & Sol fundraising effort, Arlo’s commitment to environmental sustainability led him to apply for admission to the United World College – a consortium of 17 schools and colleges on four continents – to continue his high school studies. He was awarded a full scholarship and enrolled at the UWC campus in Duino, Italy in August 2017, becoming one of 9,500 such students worldwide. His first return trip to the US was for the semester break over the holidays, and by a stroke of good fortune, SunTribe scheduled the solar array installation to begin on the day before he returned to Italy for his second semester, allowing Arlo to see his dream begin taking shape.
“It seems like it’s been forever that we’ve waited to move up the list on SunTribe’s busy installation schedule,” said RVCC’s Stu Mills “but we’re very excited to see the project underway, at last. And I couldn’t have been happier that Arlo got to see the project getting started before he had to return to school. He was clearly the heart and soul of ‘Rock & Sol’ and it was great to see his pride as we watched the installers start hauling the solar equipment up onto the roof on Monday.”
Throughout the planning and fundraising effort, the RVCC Building and Grounds Committee relied on the expertise of local solar expert Kelly Faust, who joined the SunTribe Solar team as VP of Field Operations in 2016. Sharing RVCC’s enthusiasm, Faust added, “This has been long awaited and I’m so excited as a Nelson County resident and solar advocate. This is only the beginning for solar at RVCC and the community as a whole. Many thanks need to go to all involved in the efforts and donations to make this dream come true.”