Lower Cape TV Secures Solar Grant

by Ryan Bray
Lower Cape TV recently received a $60,000 grant from the Tern Foundation to install a solar panel system on the roof of its building on Namskaket Road.  RYAN BRAY PHOTO Lower Cape TV recently received a $60,000 grant from the Tern Foundation to install a solar panel system on the roof of its building on Namskaket Road. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – When the staff at Lower Cape TV first moved into their current space on Namskaket Road in 2001, they were already thinking of ways to make the building more energy efficient. Early on, fluorescent light fixtures were replaced with flat panel LED lights, recalled the nonprofit’s executive director, Teresa Martin. Staff have also gone out of their way to visit area swap shops in search of glassware to replace paper and plastic cups.

“We’ve always been aware of the impact that choices can make in a community,” she said. “Certainly the town, the state and the whole region is really focused on the importance of addressing climate change, reducing our carbon footprint. And you start that by doing a million different tiny things.”

Now the nonprofit organization, which provides public access and other programming for the towns of Orleans, Brewster, Eastham, Wellfleet and Truro, is taking its largest step to date toward offsetting its energy usage. The organization recently received a $60,000 matching grant from the Tern Foundation to install solar panels on the roof of its 7,000-square-foot facility. Martin said with the 25.2-kilowatt panel system, Lower Cape TV could eventually operate its space as a net zero building.

“It’s going to generate enough to handle all of the building’s needs, as well as a little bit of a buffer,” she said. “Because you don’t know what your needs are going to be in the future.”

The grant was offered through the foundation’s TernSOLAR challenge program, which has funded more than 25 solar projects and environmental education initiatives in Massachusetts since 2010.

“The Tern Foundation’s terrific,” Martin said. “They’ve made such a difference in helping to bring solar to nonprofits. And it isn’t just the money. It’s the support and the ability to see and believe this is possible, which is a huge part of it.”

Martin estimated that Lower Cape TV spends between $500 and $1,000 a month on its energy costs, depending on the season. For a nonprofit, the ability to lower that overhead is critical to helping keep financial stability.

“It’s both saving and managing,” she said. “One of the worst things you can have as an organization is unpredictable expenses. The more we can manage our own production, be more efficient and have that power consumption, we get to a level of predictability.”

Beyond the installation of the panels, which are being installed through Beacon Solar, Martin said Lower Cape TV also is exploring different educational programs that could be funded through the grant money.

But the nonprofit’s first priority is securing the $60,000 needed to match the grant. Martin said the organization will be seeking donations and exploring other grant and funding opportunities in hopes of raising the money by year’s end.

“I’d love at this time next year to be standing outside looking up at it saying ‘Wow, this is really cool,’” she said.

Making Lower Cape TV’s operations more sustainable will help ensure that the nonprofit can continue to serve the community well into the future, Martin said. But she also hopes that the project will encourage other local businesses and nonprofits to explore what they can do to support clean energy efforts.

“I think being able to show how this is possible is really important,” she said.

Donations toward the matching funds can be made through the Lower Cape TV website at www.lowercapetv.org. They can also email Martin directly at tmartin@lowercapetv.org.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com