Established in 1964, Country Fair White Elephant is a nonprofit started by several volunteers whose main mission was and is to support their community. Since its founding, hundreds of volunteers have joined the ranks to process gently used goods for re-sale. Since the organization is run mostly by volunteers with 4 paid staff, only a small portion of their revenue is dedicated for office expenses like electricity and supplies. The rest is donated to local schools and charitable service organizations in the greater Green Valley area. Country Fair White Elephant made the switch to solar in early 2012 in order to further reduce their costs, increase their donations and "go green". The solar system is 129.36 kW and will produce at least 17,442 kWh each month. Their system is comprised of 420 solar panels sitting on the roof, generating electricity and a grid-tied inverter with data monitoring. It was sized to produce 57-65% of the total electricity used on site.
The solar gives Country Fair White Elephant significant financial savings. Each month they will save $2,125 off their utility bill and will have the added benefit of being protected from future escalating electricity costs. The money saved will allow them to increase the amount set aside for donations and their 4-year college scholarship program which helps local high school students.
Each month the solar system on the roof helps the nonprofit prevent 17,400 lbs of coal from being burned. It also saves 38,800 lbs of carbon dioxide (CO2), 175 lbs of other green house gases and at least 8,700 gallons of water from being consumed in traditional energy production each month. Apart from solar, the Country Fair White Elephant is dedicated to being environmentally friendly by supporting recycling programs and by having a goal to put as little in the landfill as possible.
Store volunteers have noticed a change in their community since the White Elephant solar system was installed. "More and more people are going solar" says Jim Fitzsimmons, a long time volunteer and key player for helping the nonprofit go solar. Already, at least a dozen volunteers have solar on their homes and now the solar bug is infecting the rest of the community.