Reading homeless shelter sees an opportunity in the sun

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When the sun shines on Opportunity House from now on, it is expected to lead to monetary savings.

That’s a green technology and greenbacks promise expected to be fulfilled after volunteers installed two pallets of 18 solar collectors Thursday on the southern exposure rooftop of the homeless shelter and day care center at 430 N. Second St.

“We have been working on this project for five years,” said Bill Hennessy, vice president of Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association of Kutztown, one of the organizations that donated time and manpower to install the collectors, each one 4-by-10-feet, and lifted by a 95-foot-high crane to the roof.

The solar-heat-water-thermal system, with an estimated value of $100,000, is expected to save the nonprofit 50 percent of the costs of heating water, but won’t be fully operational until October when piping is installed, said Tom Green, energy association board member and director of energy and utilities at Kutztown University.

“We are always looking for ways to reduce expenses, and with 75 men, women and children in our shelter and another 25 in transitional or permanent housing and more than 240 kids in 24/7 childcare, that adds up to the use of a lot of hot water for showers and cleanups,” said Modesto Fiume, Opportunity House president.

“I feel that with this system we will be helping the environment while also saving money for our organization,” Fiume said.

“Basically, the shelter spends $500 a month to heat water and this should reduce that cost by 50 percent,” Green said. “The whole system also will cost them nothing. It also will lower maintenance costs and should last for 20 years.”

Hennessy said all the labor was done by volunteer workers from the energy association; Energy Systems Inc., with several state locations; and C.E. Levan Excavating Service, Mohnton.

Solar collectors and other materials were funded through the Berks County Community Foundation as the conduit for the Met-Ed Sustainable Energy Fund, money that came through a deregulation settlement, Hennessy said.

“This system will save the shelter a few thousand dollars that we will be able to use for other services,” Fiume said.

Contact Bruce R. Posten: 610-371-5059 or

United States - North America - Reading - Pennsylvania

First Published July 31, 2014 8:00 PM

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