June 01, 2023

Newton YMCA installs largest solar panel system in Jasper County

$300K project provides facility with guaranteed 36% savings in electricity

From left: Newton YMCA CEO Lucas Hughes and property manager Kevin Clark stand on the roof the facility on May 31 to showcase the more than 500 solar panels installed.

The roof of the Newton YMCA is almost completely covered by solar panels. As CEO Lucas Hughes and property manager Kevin Clark navigate their way through the maze of machinery late Tuesday morning, they say there are more than 500 panels installed. Simultaneously, they check their phones.

Using an application called SolarEdge, the two can see just how much of an impact the new solar panel project has had on the facility. Clark loves to check the data every morning. The overcast skies on this particular morning meant the panels were not producing as much energy, but the facility is still saving money.

While the solar panels do not rid the YMCA of its electricity bills, they dramatically reduce the costs. The facility typically pays $80,000 per year for electricity.

Hughes said the more than $300,000 solar panel project is going to pay off in 11 to 12 years. Simpleray, the same company that worked with Jasper County’s own solar project, supplied the equipment to YMCA and guaranteed the nonprofit a 36 to 38 percent savings on its energy bills.

Which means the annual electricity bill will be somewhere between $49,600 to $51,200, or roughly $28,800 to $30,400 in savings. To Hughes and Clark, the solar panels were a worthy investment, and it shows the Newton YMCA is committed to remaining in the community.

“It’s the largest in Jasper County, and you can see just by the amount of panels that it does take quite a bit to actually power something of this size,” Hughes said. “More than anything, I know our board, myself and Kevin were looking out for the future, our sustainability. We want to be a leader in sustainability.”

Hughes said the solar panels were completely installed by the end of February. There was a lot of deliberation about whether to move forward with such a project. But the YMCA board was adamant to lead by example and show the facility is here to stay in the community.

Solar energy use has been growing steadily since the 2000s. Newton News reported a number of farmers have used panels for power their hog barns or other facilities. Even residential properties have installed solar to save on energy. Hughes said the public already is taking notice of the YMCA’s new panels, too.

Although a view of the panels may not be seen from the front door, word has gotten around. Hughes said people appreciate seeing the YMCA make such progressive investment. Plus, the extra reduction in utility bills is not only saving the facility money, it’s saving members money, too.

“We want to ensure our members don’t see the rising costs of inflation, and we don’t want to increase our rates. This is one way that we can try to stay as affordable as possible throughout all our programs and memberships,” Hughes said. “And it’s putting it out to the public that the YMCA is a community asset.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 6560 or at cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.