In today’s times, many people from other states choose the mountains of Western North Carolina as their permanent or vacation home. In Western North Carolina, preserving our region’s rich, spacious farmland from being developed to accommodate the growing population is very important. Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) wants to do just that. In 2010, Marie Anderson, a Buncombe Count native, wanted to see her 120 acre plot of land be put into production instead of becoming a development. She donated all 120 acres to SAHC so it could become a resource for the community. On the property, SAHC transformed an old garage into a community kitchen as well as a meeting room designed for workshops and events at the conservancy.
Once the building had been renovated, energy costs became apparent. With the amount of activity going on in the building, energy costs had the potential to become outrageously high. Chris Link, community farm and food program associate with SAHC, saw this need and partnered with Southwestern NC RC&D to receive a $6,000 TVA Energy for Farms Grant to install a solar panel system on the roof of the newly renovated community building. Sugar Hollow Solar, a solar energy company based in Asheville, NC, installed these panels as well as a Curb System, a real time monitor of how much energy the building is using. “The Curb System has not only helped us monitor the amount of energy we are using in the building but also has become a great teaching tool,” said Link. “It shows our workshop attendees how the use of solar can make their farms and businesses more energy efficient.”
Since the installation of the solar PV system, SAHC has hosted 8 workshops inside the building. They have also hosted many farm tours to school-aged children ranging anywhere from kindergarten to college seniors. “The elementary students love to learn about how solar works,” said Link. “We always like that to be one of our main stops along our tour of the conservancy.”
The conservancy is constantly creating new workshops as well as educational pieces for schools. To learn more about SAHC, visit their website at www.appalachian.org or give them a call at 828-253-0095.