What does a Hummingbird, the Sun, and a Children’s Museum have in Common?

Participate in Olympia Community Solar’s unique solar energy project with the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia, WA.

Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, Wangari Maathai, tells the story of the Hummingbird.

It is a story about a fire destroying a large forest in Africa.

The animals that live in the forest flee to an area near a lake, and they begin weeping. “What are we going to do? We’ve lost our home!”

The animals notice a tiny hummingbird fill its small beak with water from the lake, then it flies to the fire and drops a single drop on the raging inferno.”

An elephant with his great long truck that can hold a lot of water asks, “Hummingbird, What are you doing? It’s such a large fire; you’ll never be able to put it out.”

Without missing a beat, the Hummingbird says to the elephant, “I’m doing the best I can.”

Wangari Maathai advises that we should always feel like a hummingbird.

It is a story that Mason Rolph, the president of Olympia Community Solar, personally relates to and is the inspiration and namesake of the Hummingbird community solar project planned installation on the Olympia Hands’ roof on Children’s Museum.

Mason began talks with the City of Olympia, the Children’s Museum, and Solar installers to get the ball rolling on the project in 2018.[1]  

Olympia Community Solar is due to begin installing solar panels on the Children’s Museum roof in November 2020. Upon completion, the Children’s Museum joins a list of about 70 other community solar projects built in Washington State.

What is Olympia Community Solar?

While attending Evergreen State College, Mason Rolph studied a concept named Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Mason described CSA’s stating, “It’s a model of supporting a farmer because they have the upfront costs of starting a growing season with ordering seeds and planting, but the produce and their revenue doesn’t come in until the fall when they are harvesting. So, the idea is that you purchase a share of the farmer’s crop at the beginning of the season, and you receive produce throughout the harvest.”

Mason and others have adopted and modified that idea and applied it to solar energy. Mason said, “Looking at that idea, it perked my interest. Why couldn’t we do the same thing with solar energy, except instead of produce, we have electricity? That is what first got me interested and learning about community solar, which is a pretty large national industry.”

Mason added, “We signed a lease agreement August 201 last year to use the children’s museum roof, the whole Olympia city council, and the museum directors approved it. The second step we took was to do a competitive procurement for our solar installer; we attracted four different installers and ended up selecting A&R solar, a Seattle based installer. Then we took their solar proposal and turned it into a community solar offering. We divided the cost of the solar array into 800 solar units. Each solar unit represents an 18-year subscription to about 1/3 of a solar panel. Once the system comes online, we’ll distribute each participant’s electricity value back to them with an annual. That’s kind of how the unit’s work.”

Get Involved!

The 297 solar panels that will be built on the roof of the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia, Washington, are publicly available in the form of “Solar Units.” The solar units each cost $300. The electricity generated by the units gets purchased through an agreement with the Museum.

At the end of the year, participants receive a check in the amount that their panel or panels generated. Also, participants are eligible to receive a $70 tax credit for their purchase of each solar unit. Tax credits are ideal since they are a dollar for dollar reduction in the taxes you pay.

Once your unit has generated $300 of electricity, the panels will be donated to the Hands On Children’s Museum, ultimately cutting their massive electric bill by nearly half and allowing them to spend that money on programs for children. Personally, as an accountant, I think the idea is brilliant.

The amount of carbon the project will offset is astounding. Each of the units is expected to reduce 3,400pounds of CO2, and the whole project will offset more than 5.6 million pounds of CO2. That’s the carbon equivalent to 2,500 acres of forest. It is expected to produce enough electricity to power homes in the area.

 Residents of Washington, as well as businesses and non-profits, can participate. Anyone within the United States can donate solar units to the participating non-profit partners. You can help positively impact the environment and reduce long-term costs for the Hands On Children’s Museum while also lowering your tax bill by purchasing or donating a solar unit by clicking this link here

Olympia Community Solar is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with a mission to expand equitable solar energy access with community solar. You can reach out to OlySolar by email at [email protected] or by phone at (360) 481-4020. 


Written by Corey Dembeck

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