By Bruce Naegel, August 2016 —
Every year, EHP (Ecumenical Hunger Program) (1) holds their annual Blockfest community party, and this year’s event took place on Saturday, August 13.
Blockfest showcases organizations providing community and sustainability services to East Palo Alto residents. Community services include legal services, the YMCA, affordable senior housing, and voter registration. The setup was like an Earth Day event, with information booths staffed by representatives of each organization who could answer people’s questions. There was also free food and entertainment from the blues band Cross Cut Saw.
Overall, EHP’s campus was buzzing from the 300 visitors enjoying a beautiful day and the facilities.
From left to right: Phu Nguyen, Monica Harnoto, Susanne Schubert, Andrea Fuchilieri, Bruce Naegel, Charu Ahluwalia, Jennifer Thompson, Signe Henkel, Dee Sreedhar
At this year’s Blockfest, there were four organizations dedicated to sustainability: Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) (2), Canopy (3), SunWork (4), and Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV) (5).
BAAQMD supports sustainability by monitoring air quality in the Bay Area. They provide daily checks on air quality, including their Spare the Air Days. Another part of their sustainability focus is funding studies, like the grant given to SSV for 25 home energy checkups in East Palo Alto. Kristina Chu and Julius Li represented BAAQMD at Blockfest, providing information and a newsletter sign-up, and participating in a Scavenger Hunt.
Canopy promotes sustainability by restoring urban forests. They sponsor tree planting activities in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Through their efforts, the urban forest in several neighborhoods in Palo Alto are in fine condition. Moreover, they offer a great way for interested residents to get involved and beautify their community.
SunWork provides sustainable solar power installations. One of the areas they concentrate on is nonprofit organizations like EHP. With their volunteer labor, SunWork is able to provide aggressive prices on solar installations (e.g., $3/watt). Their business plan allows them to be successful in a segment of the market larger than residential that is not addressed by other solar installers.
In addition, their work in the nonprofit space allows them to ensure faith organizations and community centers like EHP can save money on electricity. By installing solar, these organizations get the benefit of more money for their programs and less greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. SunWork provided the solar installation at EHP, which was funded in part by a grant from Mitsubishi (6) and coordinated by SSV. Mike Balma and Tom Kabat represented SunWork at Blockfest.
The other portion of SunWork’s business focuses on residential communities, where they can provide a return on investment (ROI) in 7 to 10 years for homeowners who can pay for solar. This is a different segment than the one addressed by Grid Alternatives. SunWork’s services address a number of possible customers in East Palo Alto.
SSV and the Solar Installation at EHP
“Sustainable” is part of SSV’s name, so initiating a solar installation at EHP was a natural fit with our goals for a Net Positive Bay Area. Along with our partners, we worked through the project to keep it moving, despite the challenges. Mitsubishi (7) was brought on early as a partner. They wanted to fund a program that would have a positive impact on East Palo Alto. The end result for EHP was two cool roofs and a solar array supplying 29 kW of power. The array is estimated to generate 44,400 kWh of energy each year and reduce carbon dioxide by 25,600 pounds.
From left to right: Signe Henkel, Dee Susanne Schubert, Jennifer Thompson, Gail Mihara (Mitsubishi), Bruce Naegel, Kristina Chu (BAAQMD), Mike Balma (SunWork), Phu Nguyen, Andrea Fuchilieri, Monica Harnoto, Charu Ahluwalia
Sustainability Demos at Blockfest
Both the SunWork and Sustainable Silicon Valley booths featured solar-powered demos. SunWork’s demo showed a water pump and fan powered by solar. The demo for SSV was in the form of a doll house equipped with a cool roof, solar cell, and three solar-powered devices. Switches controlled each of the devices – a fan, light bulb, and sound entertainment device. EHP requested the demo to provide an educational component to their renewable energy display.
Blockfest also featured a scavenger hunt pointing out sustainability features around the EHP campus. These included the solar roof, one of the two cool roofs, and insulation. A number of children took part in the scavenger hunt and earned high scores.
Sustainability Checkups and SSV
SSV members actively solicited names for our Home Energy Checkups, and over a dozen people expressed interest. With our other prospects, we are on our way to getting the next batch of Checkups completed.
If you are interested in getting a free Energy Checkup for your home, please contact SSV at (650) 999-0710, or send an email with your name and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org.