Empowering People. Repowering Communities.

Shifting the Balance in West Virginia

Renewable energy technology was once out of reach for many people in the world but New Vision is shifting the balance allowing anyone who is willing, to benefit.

Sitting at the kitchen table of Dave and Karen MacDonald's home, there is a clear view of the most recent addition to their farm, a 16 panel solar installation built on the steep slope of a mountain. Various animals dot the hillside including goats, chickens and turkeys. "It's not the easiest of places to build a system but it gets good light and the animals don't seem to mind", concedes Dave in his distinctive New England accent. Though not so old, Dave finds himself in the unlikely MacDonald farming role and simply chuckles when others refer to him that way. It's hard to deny as we sit among the shady trees listening to the not too distant bellows of his donkey over the mountain.

Dave, a former Golden Gloves Boxing Champ and successful entrepreneur, finds himself living in sharp contrast to the way he grew up defending himself on the streets in some of Boston's tougher neighborhoods. Now happily married with 4 children, he lives in the peaceful mountains of Appalachia in rural West Virginia and is part of a movement that is shifting the way people think about what is possible.

Dave has been a local member of the "Green Team" since its inception in 2009 at Peoples Chapel Church in the small community of Chestnut Ridge. He is part of a 10-family pilot project by New Vision using time banking and low interest financing as a model in which each family will benefit from building and erecting its own solar installation, with the help of other Green Team members. The group lays claim to being "the first church in America to build its own solar panels" and has installed a solar system on the church building as well as other member sites.

During the last decade as energy prices have soared, local inventor John Prusa (commonly referred to as "The Mad Scientist" by New Vision and the Green Team) became more determined than ever to reduce his energy dependency through practical renewable energy solutions he developed and implemented at his home. As he shared his inventions and stories with Ruston Seaman, a pastor with more than 30 years of community development experience, it didn't take long for each of them to connect the dots about how renewable energy could be used as a tool for empowering people and communities struggling to pay for the high costs of rising utility bills. People simply needed a New Vision.

The MacDonald installation overlooks their home over 340 feet away. The location presented many challenges and opportunities to expand the team's skills as they used the combined talents of the each member to complete the project. While their system has only recently been connected to the power grid, Dave anticipates a 75% reduction in their home electric bill taking into account average daily sunlight, kilowatts per panel, and a new prototype tracking system that is projected to increase energy production by up to 40%. Each part of the system is designed and built with common building materials so that it can be easily replicated.

The Peoples Chapel Green Team is the first chapter of New Vision and has been largely responsible for the outgrowth of many renewable energy projects in the area. It is made up of everyday people who meet each week combining a mixed bag of talents with plenty of ingenuity and The Mad Scientist's latest innovations, to learn practical applications that decrease energy dependency. Their dedication and determination has breathed life into areas that have historically struggled for subsistence both here and abroad. They recently produced a portable solar light that is now being introduced to places as far away as Kenya, Romania, and Haiti.

Renewable energy projects range from solar panels and lights, to biodiesel, solar cookers, aquaponics and whatever else John has cooked up.

Dave expressed that for him, "It's the relationships and experiences in working with friends that is the most rewarding of all. Being a part of the Green Team is more about a sense of community and giving back to help others than it is about saving money."

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renewable energy making inroads in rural america

This sense of community and neighbors-helping-neighbors has taken hold in West Virginia and is spreading quickly to other areas. If watching your electric meter spin backwards interests you, please contact New Vision for more information about how you, your organization or corporation can join our membership network and take part in something that is truly life-changing.