New England Clean Energy and Canadian Solar recently extended our partnership with Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester (HFHMW/GW) to provide mini-solar energy systems for playhouses built by Habitat donor corporations to benefit selected Central Massachusetts military veterans and their families. Say what?

Let me back up. We’ve always wanted to support Habitat for Humanity in some way, because we believe in what they do, never mind the “housing” connection between our missions. Furthermore, the non-profit is highly committed to energy efficiency and renewable energy, so we have much common ground.

In July 2014, the MetroWest/Greater Worcester chapter started Operation Playhouse — a volunteer/fundraising program for groups and corporations wanting to make a difference in their communities. Volunteers build, design and decorate children’s playhouses, which are then donated to local military veterans and their families with children.

Despite the fact that we’ve installed more than 500 systems in New England, we’re still a pretty small company, so supporting Habitat’s program of little houses seemed like a perfect fit thematically and financially.

Habitat for Humanity playhouse with solar energy system on the roofWe pulled in the good people at Canadian Solar and, last November, started providing Habitat with Canadian Solar’s Maple Solar Systems for the playhouses as part of a pilot program. The Maple kits are perfect — one small working solar panel which powers two LED light bulbs inside the playhouse.

Eleven playhouses were built during the six-month pilot, with themes ranging from Sponge Bob to country living. Click here to view a slideshow with photos of the playhouses.

Grace Warwick, development coordinator of HFHMW/GW, told me how popular these mini-solar energy systems are with the families who receive the playhouses: “Our playhouses are personally designed and decorated with incredible toys and fixtures, but the solar panels are always the most impressive part. The lights themselves add a finished touch that parents and kids appreciate. But the fact that these lights are powered with green energy becomes a moment of pride for everyone involved.”

Grace likes to tell a story about a child who insisted on holding his solar-powered LED light (it’s kind of like a flashlight) on his ride home, and who played with the light, huge smile on this face, for the entire drive.

Community service, solar energy, helping veterans, and smiling kids. What’s not to love?


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