Virginia solar volunteers bring relief from heat, and power fees, to horse farm



The organizer of a current solar instruction system reunited participants for the project at a Yogaville horse steady.

YOGAVILLE, Va. — Candi and Copper Penny may possibly just be two of the happiest — and coolest — horses in southern Virginia.

It is all due to the fact the roof more than their steady is equipped with a newly installed solar panel that keeps a pair of fans moving air through the ever-escalating quantity of hot and humid days in the area exactly where the mercury pushes beyond 90 degrees properly into September.

“They adore these fans, specially Copper Penny. I have two of the greatest babies you have ever observed in your life,” Dhyani Simonini stated lovingly about the pair of mares she boards at Yogaville’s organic farm. “I had a fan in each and every stall and when they reduce out, they would stand there cooking.” 

That untenable predicament prompted her to speak to a Yogaville buddy, Kenda Hanuman, about a solar instruction system she had heard about in Union Hill. “She’s the 1 who connected me to Richard,” Simonini stated.

That is Richard Walker. He’s the mental wellness counselor with deep roots in Union Hill who cobbled with each other a solar instruction system by way of his longtime nonprofit, Bridging the Gap in Virginia, in mid-June. It permitted 10 region residents to immerse themselves in a week-lengthy solar boot camp taught by a experienced trainer.

On a Tuesday in late August, Walker and 4 other trainees answered Simonini’s plea by meeting at the boiling hot steady in the middle of about eight treeless acres to set up the 100-watt, 12-volt monocrystalline solar panel.

“This is a beginning point to show that these guys know what they are performing,” Walker stated about supervising the rookie crew’s 1st on-the-ground chance. “It took them all of 45 minutes to set up that 1 panel. You would have believed they had been experts.”

Andre Massenburg, a veteran residential and industrial contractor, was thrilled to participate, even although it meant driving extra than an hour from his dwelling base in Richmond.

“Part of the agreement from taking that instruction was that we would pitch in and assist out with other projects anytime Richard calls,” the 58-year-old stated. “Anytime we can make one thing like this take place, it is great.” 

Massenburg figures Simonini’s solar kit expense about $400 — which will spend for itself in brief time.

“It’s going to take her off-grid to run the fans so she’ll be acquiring cost-free power,” he stated, adding that she can retailer power in her marine battery and possibly ultimately add lights to the steady.

Jeeva Abbate, appropriate, tells John Laury about the solar method that powers Yogaville’s Light of Truth Universal Shrine, in the background and at present beneath building. Laury, a deacon at Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Union Hill, helped to organize the solar boot camp. | photo by Elizabeth McGowan

Simonini, a retiree who taught English, theater and inventive writing at Buckingham County Higher College for 31 years, is an integral component of Yogaville.

The 660-acre spiritual center along the banks of the James River — total with the iconic Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) — began in 1979 as the longtime dream of Swami Satchidananda. Even though he died in 2002, the nonprofit organization has evolved into a haven for yoga applications, retreats and trainings. A neighborhood of home owners has sprouted up about the retreat. 

Simonini not too long ago received the solar panel and the converter box as a thank you present from a group of females enrolled in her introductory yoga class. She started exploring installation choices this summer season right after a nearby industrial firm told her the steady project was as well smaller to bother with.

“But it is essential if you have got reside beings you are attempting to retain cool,” she stated about her persistence.

All of Yogaville is served by the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, but the farm wasn’t wired for two fans to run 24/7, specially through storms. And when they operated, it was an added expense for Simonini.

“This was just synchronicity,” she stated about Hanuman linking her with Walker.

Hanuman, who lives in a straw bale residence, has known as Yogaville dwelling for 26 years. 

“I care about the young children and I care about the planet,” stated Hanuman, a wonderful-grandmother. “I attempt to assist organize and retain individuals connected.” 

Bonds involving Yogaville and Union Hill — 15 minutes apart by car or truck and each roughly 70 miles west of Richmond — have blossomed given that the words “Atlantic Coast Pipeline” entered their respective vocabularies in 2014. If constructed, Dominion Energy’s pipeline would bisect Virginia for roughly 300 of its 600 miles to move hydraulically fractured all-natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina.

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Hanuman co-founded Buddies of Buckingham with Chad Oba, of Union Hill, to educate neighbors about the hazards of all-natural gas pipelines and the compressor station authorized for building in Union Hill. 

Each females showed assistance for Walker’s solar instruction initiative in June by attending a celebratory fish fry for graduates at Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Participants attended classes in the church’s Fellowship Hall and received hands-on lessons by studying two somewhat new solar projects in Yogaville — a ground-mount method for LOTUS and a rooftop installation on the all-goal Sivananda Hall.

Walker had watched arguments about the pipeline cleave longtime loved ones and neighbor relationships. These rifts gnawed at his heart due to the fact eight generations of his loved ones have known as Union Hill dwelling given that cost-free blacks and former slaves settled in Buckingham County right after the Civil War.

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Getting an option to fossil fuels and healing his smaller rural neighborhood motivated Walker to pursue a grant from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation so he could provide these initial solar scholarships to underemployed region residents.

He sees the Yogaville horse steady as the 1st tiny chance for that crew. Subsequent, he desires to use the leftover foundation revenue to attract matching grants so Union Grove home owners can advantage from rooftop solar installed by the trainees.

“If we do not use this understanding, it just sits on a shelf and goes dead,” stated Massenburg, the Richmond contractor.

He has no intention of letting his expertise go dormant. His firm, Building Solutions, is currently incorporating rooftop solar on two new $325,000 properties in Richmond.

“Solar need to be automatic due to the fact it upgrades the residence,” Massenburg stated. “The sun is making energy that is cost-free. We all will need to tap into that and give everyone access.”  

For Simonini, projects completed with adore and care can assist to mend racial and familial divides.

“This is all tied with each other, just like the way you make a dreamcatcher,” she stated, referring to her Native American roots. “If 1 thread is broken, the planet is depleted.”

Now that her horses have moving air, subsequent on Simonini’s list may possibly be a solar upgrade that could assistance a freezer. She noted that the water she pours into transportable tubs becomes steamy pretty immediately.

“Horses do not want to drink hot tea,” she stated. “I’ve been going to McDonald’s just about every day and purchasing 4 pounds of ice just so they have cold water all day.”