NW Works Inc., a non-profit organization based in Winchester, Virginia, that helps adults with disabilities overcome barriers to getting good jobs, has just asked Secure Futures to help the organization go solar. Generating their own solar power will cut their electric bill, freeing up more resources to meet the organization’s core mission of workforce development in northwestern Virginia and the greater Washington, DC area.
Once it is completed in the second half of 2021, the 168-kilowatt solar power system at NW Works’ main office will be large compared to solar arrays installed on site at other non-profit organizations in Virginia. Solar panels will provide more than half of the electricity used by the facility and yield net savings to the organization of nearly $410,000 over the next 35 years. This money can go directly into programs for skills training, client coaching, and job placement.
A Shared Dedication to Empowering Communities
“You never know what somebody is capable of until you give them the opportunity,” CEO Debera Taylor explains about the approach behind the organization’s workforce development services.
NW Works provides case management support to individuals who have experienced specific barriers to employment. These may include people with long-term developmental disabilities, mental health issues, physical challenges, traumatic brain injuries, or vision or hearing impairments.
NW Works also serves veterans with disabilities, and partners with beneficiaries of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The organization bridges the gap between employment opportunities and people who face various hurdles to overcome that were created by social stigmas and the rising divide between socioeconomic classes.
Finally, through its participation in the innovative ProjectSEARCH, the organization also serves high school students with disabilities to gain access to a variety of internships at Winchester Medical Center. Graduates of ProjectSEARCH often receive employment immediately after their experience as interns.
By addressing the unique circumstances faced by high schoolers and adults alike, NW Works provides therapeutic assistance through job development, resume building, and employment coaching opportunities. This holistic approach has proven to deliver competitive employment opportunities, often making dreams a reality.
NW Works shares a commitment to serve their community with all of our solar customers, from K-12 schools to hospitals to businesses that have proven essential during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Secure Futures shares this same commitment. As a Certified B Corp company, we are committed to a triple bottom-line of profit, people, and planet. B Corp certification is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. Read more about how our B Corp commitment influences our business here.
Overcoming Challenges to Going Solar on Location
Installing a solar energy system right on site rather than trying to source solar power through the electric grid offers unique benefits, especially bigger money savings, of which NW Works wanted to take advantage. But the NW Works campus presented unique challenges to hosting a solar array right on site.
Although most commercial-scale solar energy systems are typically installed as rooftop solar panels, NW Works’ roof was not suitable to support solar power equipment.
Our Resilient Solar + Roof Restoration™ program allows Secure Futures to improve many roofing situations enough to allow them to support solar panels for 25 years or more. However, in the case of the NW Works office building in Winchester, restoring their roof up to a solar-ready standard would prove to be expensive and would cut into their savings from going solar.
So, to maximize their financial benefit, Secure Futures came up with a creative solution for a ground-mounted solar array. To avoid taking up land that could have other uses in the future — either for NW Works to expand its facility or for the organization to benefit by selling the property — we found a way to fit a large number of solar panels in an oddly shaped parcel of land between the building and a parking lot.
Placing a solar array on land too small and too unusually shaped to have other uses proved to be the proverbial win-win solution. There will be another benefit too.
Unlike most rooftop photovoltaic systems that are difficult to see from ground level, the ground-mounted solar array at NW Works will be a highly visible sign of the organization’s commitment to steward its resources wisely. Placed in sight of the building’s main entrance, the solar panels will help send a clear message every day to employees, clients, and members of the community alike. Whether it comes to modern energy or workforce development, NW Works is wired into the 21st century economy.