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$630K in grants to spark 7 Tucson nonprofits to shift to solar

$630K in grants to spark 7 Tucson nonprofits to shift to solar

  •  An engineer installs solar panels at a Colorado testing facility (2011 file photo).
    Dennis Schoeder/Department of Energy An engineer installs solar panels at a Colorado testing facility (2011 file photo).

Seven Tucson nonprofits have been awarded $630,000 in grants to switch to solar energy from a Community Foundation for Southern Arizona program intended to boost local solar energy use and equity.

The grants are for one year and vary in size based on the “location, size, and unique needs" of each nonprofit group. The Community Foundation did not detail the amounts each group received.

Local nonprofits can use the grant to hire a company to install solar panels on their shelters, workshops, studios and other locations where they operate. The seven nonprofits include BICAS, the DIY bike shop and art center, and Youth on Their Own, Pima County’s charity for homeless high school students and children.

“The energy savings gained by a solar parking lot will dramatically reduce our overhead costs,” Youth on Their Own CEO Elizabeth Slater said in a press release. “As a result, YOTO will be able to redirect more funding towards our mission of helping Pima County’s youth experiencing homelessness to stay in school.”

The organizations receiving the support are:

More than 70 nonprofits applied, according to the Community Foundation. 

The Drawing Studio expects to save $6,400 a year in electricity costs with the help of the grant, the group’s executive director, Emiel Brott, wrote in a press release. The savings can go back into the programming and work of the studio, which offers free and affordable art classes.

“For the selected nonprofits, the installation of solar power is like a monthly gift through reduced energy costs for decades to come,” Community Foundation CEO Jenny Flynn wrote.

A switch to solar for the emergency shelters at Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse “will lower the cost of operating this vital service—making it a more sustainable resource for those who need” emergency shelter, the organization’s CEO Ed Sakwa wrote.

“Emergency shelter can mean the difference between remaining in an abusive situation and facing homelessness for many of the people we serve,” he wrote.

The Community Foundation is awarding the grants as part of its Nonprofit Solar Project, which supports local organizations switch to solar power and hopes to “reduce their carbon footprint and energy costs, freeing up resources for programming or other infrastructure needs,” according to a press release.

Environmental risks and inequity are the “two of the most significant barriers to a vibrant Southern Arizona,” Flynn wrote.

The money for the grant was raised through anonymous donations to the Environmental Sustainability Impact Fund.

Tucson Foundations, a community-focused nonprofit, also gave $100,000 to support this year’s grant, and Tucson Electric Power contributed $15,000. Solar United Neighbors, an association of solar users, helped develop the Nonprofit Solar Project, according the press release.

Tucson Foundation is “especially excited to support… the work at Emerge! Center Against Domestic Violence because every dollar not spent on utilities can be reinvested into the missions of these remarkable nonprofits,” spokeswoman Jennifer Lohse wrote.

Bennito L. Kelty is’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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