From Green Right Now Reports

Green Mountain Energy Company is looking for Houston-area non-profit groups that would like to harness the power of that blazing Texas sun.

Solar panels on the roof of the San Jacinto Council Girl Scouts building (Photo: San Jacinto Girl Scouts)

Every year for the past eight years, the clean energy retailer has donated solar rooftop systems to selected organizations through its Big Texas Sun Club. Groups that want to be considered this year must apply to Green Mountain Energy at the club’s website by Friday, July 30, 2010.

The Big Texas Sun Club is composed of Green Mountain Energy customers who pay an extra $5 a month on their electricity bill to support solar development and education in Texas. The solar installations at non-profits serve to curb greenhouse gas emissions and spread awareness of solar power in the community.

Since 2002, the program has donated 23 solar arrays resulting in an aggregate estimated reduction of 2.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the life of the installations — the equivalency of taking 84,000 cars off the road for a day, Green Mountain reports.

Last fall, the Girl Scouts of the San Jacinto Council in Houston, received one of the donated solar arrays to help power its three-story building in the city. The group began spreading the good news about solar immediately, starting with having girl scouts watch the installation of the  56-panel system and then hosting a public reception when the project was complete. Visitors were invited to see the panels, which are installed on a flat roof not visible from below, said Connie Chavez, communications director for the Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts "flip the switch" on the solar installation in Houston. (Photo: San Jacinto Girl Scouts)

The 10.08 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic (PV) solar- panel system is expected to save the San Jacinto Council Girl Scouts $300,000 in utility costs over the next 30 years. Already it has saved the non-profit 8,500 kilowatt hours of electricity, Chavez said.

“I don’t know that we would have ever been able to do this without their help. It’s truly a good thing to do, but there is an upfront cost that a lot of nonprofits simply can’t afford,” Chavez said.

Other beneficiaries of the Green Mountain’s Big Sun program have included: The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History; Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi; Houston Zoo; Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas; Ballroom Marfa ; Texas State Technical College in Harlingen; Eastfield College in Mesquite; Satori Elementary School in Galveston; Chinquapin School in Highlands; the Waco Chamber of Commerce and McAllen Chamber of Commerce; Ronald McDonald House of Austin; and Habitat for Humanity homes in Dallas and Houston. Habitat for Humanity in Houston also is receiving solar hot water units for five homes.

Green Mountain, based in Austin, offers clean energy to households and businesses that want to use green energy. It also offers carbon offset solutions. Founded in 1997, the company is the longest-serving green power marketer in the U.S., and remains the only such retail company in the nation focused entirely on providing clean energy. Green Mountain estimates that it has helped customers avoid more than 11.3 billion pounds of carbon emissions.

“Green Mountain Energy Company’s mission is to change the way power is made,” said Paul Markovich, President of Residential Services for Green Mountain Energy Company, in a statement. “Each solar array we install through the Big Texas Sun Club helps us achieve that mission and give back to the local community.”