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Solar Panels Help Nonprofit Youth Homeless Shelter Saves Thousands in Energy Costs

Aug 19, 2023

The hotter- and drier-than-normal weather we’ve experienced in the Twin Cities this summer has been good, in one big way, for a nonprofit that operates youth homeless shelters in Brooklyn Park and north Minneapolis.

“This has been our highest production six weeks that we’ve had since installation,” said Avenues for Youth Facilities Manager Trevor Burns about the $90,000 solar panel array that was installed on the roof of the Brooklyn Avenues location last winter. “It’s working out fabulously.”

Burns said that, on average, users in Minnesota pay 17 cents per kilowatt hour of power. He said, thanks to the solar panels, Avenues is paying about 3 cents per kilowatt hour–billed annually instead of monthly. And the setup is helping put energy back into the grid.

Avenues for Youth’s homeless shelter in Brooklyn Park has a $90,000 solar array installed thanks to grants that help the nonprofit save thousands in energy costs per year.

“We get to watch it go right back out into the neighborhood,” said Burns. “We get to see those power-generating bills. They’re fun, because we can see negative 400, and I think the biggest is negative 600, so we can see those savings.”

The main barrier for most power customers is the upfront costs associated with solar panel installation. The tens of thousands of dollars is arguably offset by the savings over time in monthly utility bills. But, again, that can play out over several years.

Nonprofits like Avenues need help with those costs. Much of the $90,000 in installation came about through a partnership among Avenues, Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Hammond Climate Solutions, Xcel Energy, installation company TruNorth, and the city of Brooklyn Park, which owns the land and the building.

“It’s really a wonderful story of all of these wonderful organizations–a community–coming together to support youth experiencing homelessness,” said Avenues for Youth Executive Director Katherine Meerse. “We’re saving $4,000 a year at Avenues, and that is $4,000 a year we can put back into programs for youth, and supports for youth.”

Meerse said the sustainability trend mirrors what the organization is trying to do on a daily basis in the Twin Cities community.

“Our mission is to partner with youth experiencing homelessness to achieve their dreams,” she said. “In a world where climate change is happening so fast, everyone’s dreams are in danger, so any ability we have to help support renewable energy is going to help our young people achieve their dreams.”

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