New solar array raises hope in Dayton

By Solar United Neighbors on December 13, 2023

Dayton’s Salem Avenue is like a lot of American thoroughfares. In its heyday, it bustled with activity, full of restaurants and places to play. But, a decline in the auto industry brought economic hardship. Now, the community is working to turn the tide. No better example is the new gleaming solar installation atop the NAACP Dayton headquarters.

NAACP Dayton President Dr. Derrick L. Foward during the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the headquarters of the NAACP Dayton Unit.

“We’re the first business on the Salem Avenue corridor with solar,” said Dayton Unit NAACP President Dr. Derrick L. Foward. “Others have come to us asking how it has worked for us. They’re interested.”

The organization’s move to solar started with a move itself. The American Friends Service Committee owned the building and decided to move out. It wanted to give the building to an organization that would be a worthy beneficiary. The NAACP Dayton fit the bill because of its deep work in the community.

As an all volunteer organization, NAACP Dayton didn’t have the upfront capital to invest in a solar array. Solar United Neighbors (SUN) became involved in this effort when we joined with them for a panel that discussed why energy justice is a necessary part of environmental justice.

This conversation ignited a spark that led to concrete action.  SUN provided an initial $10,000 to get the project started. The Eichelberger Foundation, overseen by the Dayton Foundation, provided the balance of funds.

“This solar array is more than just a collection of panels,” said Mryia Williams, SUN Ohio Program Associate. “It’s a symbol of hope, resilience, and progress.”

Ohio Power Solutions installed the 13-panel system. The system will cover more than 80% of the building’s energy use. This will save the organization $57,000 in lower energy costs over the life of the system. The array also comes with a 10 kWh battery system. This will ensure the organization can continue services, even when the power goes out.

The new system is generating quite a buzz in Dayton. More than 50 distinguished guests attended the ribbon cutting in August of 2023. This included Ohio District 38 House Representative Willis Blackshear Jr., Dayton Mayor Jeffrey J. Mims Jr., and Montgomery County Commissioners Carolyn Rice and Deborah Lieberman, Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck, and Dayton Police Department Lieutenant Jason Hall.

“There’s a myth that solar isn’t for certain parts of the community,” said Dayton Unit NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee Chair Gary Leppla. Leppla was active in bringing the system to life. “We completely reject [that]. This was an opportunity to demonstrate that.”