Veterans of Foreign Wars participated in overseas military operations in the past. Now, Coastal Carolina University students are conducting their own operation with a goal to outfit the Murrells Inlet VFW Post 10420 with solar panels for their facility.

Operation Sunshine is being conducted by the CCU Solar Ambassador Team. They estimate the solar panels will divert 65% of the current energy usage of the VFW. Additionally, they estimate the system will save 456,000 pounds worth of carbon dioxide emission over the course of 25 years. Of course, there is also the financial savings to consider.

“Any money we can save is good for the veterans,” said Jimmy Keating, Junior Vice President for VFW Post 10420, who is looking forward to savings on the group’s energy bills as a result of the project. However, the cost of electricity is not the only consideration. The environmental benefits are also on their minds.

“Anything we can do to cut down emissions is good,” Keating said.

Keating said they became interested in solar energy after hearing about the “Volts4Vets” project that was completed by the CCU Solar Ambassador’s team at the Little River VFW Post 10804. That project was the first of its kind in South Carolina.

“The Little River project was a labor of love, as well as a privilege to serve the veterans in our community,” said Dr. Pamela Martin, Faculty Advisor and Mentor for the Solar Ambassadors.

According to Keating, the members of the Little River VFW were “thrilled” with the results so the Murrells Inlet VFW contacted the same CCU group to consider a similar project at their facility. The Ambassadors gave a presentation at the Murrells Inlet VFW which provided information about solar energy.

“It wouldn’t cost us anything out of pocket so we were thrilled about it,” Keating said.

“We are optimistic this will prompt future solar installations to empower other nonprofits throughout Georgetown County,” said Julie Emory, Copywriter for the Solar Ambassador team.

The project is made possible through a Solar Ambassador Fellowship organized through Re-volv, a San Francisco nonprofit that works to provide solar power to other nonprofit organizations.

The Re-volv program works by utilizing a pay-it-forward, “revolving” fund to support solar panel installations across the country. The projects provide the recipient, the 10420 VFW in this case, with solar panels at no initial cost. Instead, the VFW will pay monthly installments as part of a 20-year, little-to-no interest lease agreement. That money is used by Re-volv as seed money to fund future solar power projects.

Emory said the VFW should be able to utilize the benefits of solar technology for many years. She said 30-year old solar panels are still currently operating at or near 100%.

The CCU Solar Ambassadors are looking to raise $35,326, of which they have raised over 55% according Emory. In addition to the solar panels, the cost includes repairs to the VFW roof which was needed and would have prevented the installation of solar panels. That work has already been completed.

The Murrells Inlet VFW project is technically 100% funded by Re-volv because of the revolving seed money process. The money being raised continues the revolving fund process that allows for the funding of more projects across the country and is based on the cost of this particular VFW project.

Keating said they estimate installation to begin in September. Additionally, they hope to further reduce the cost associated with the lease agreement through fundraising of their own.

“The ability to work with the VFW in our community to show how we can all benefit from cheaper, cleaner energy is an honor and a wonderful learning opportunity for our students,” Dr. Martin said. “Increasing the solar capacity of the Grand Strand, especially for veterans and other non-profits that give so much to our community helps us move our community toward a more sustainable and resilient future.”

For more information about Re-volv or to donate to Operation Sunshine visit https://re-volv.org/project/VFW10420/.