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At the worst of times, Monsignor Michael Kosak opened the electricity bill for St. Ann's Catholic Church to find his St. Croix parish owed $5,500. "Our WAPA bill is sky high," Kosak said. "We say it's a real 'whoppa.'"

St. Ann's bills may soon decrease, though, as it has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the V.I. Energy Office to install solar panels. The parish is one of 19 area nonprofits that received money through the Energy Office Discretionary Grant program, which was funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Energy Office spokesman Don Buchanan said.

The program is giving out almost $850,000, Buchanan said. The grants will pay for educational programs about saving energy, as well as for capital investments into technologies such as wind power, solar systems and efficient appliances.

"Down here we don't have anything but oil," Buchanan said. "That's why we have to make these things happen."

The University of the Virgin Islands Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning center received $50,000 to conduct a survey about residents' and business owners' knowledge of energy issues. Results from the survey, which can be taken online at www.uvi.edu/sites/uvi/Pages/CELL-VIEO_Survey.aspx or on paper by contacting the center at 693-1100, will be used to design a series of free community workshops about energy conservation. Survey takers and workshop participants will be eligible for prizes, center director Ilene Garner said.

After the workshops, the center will follow up with participants to see if the changes helped chisel away at their energy bills, Garner said.

"For many people, energy is a huge part of their budget, especially if you have a family," Garner said. "You're cooking, you're washing, you're ironing -- you can have a pretty hefty bill."

Nana Baby Children's Home President John Foster said the St. Thomas nonprofit will use its $50,000 award to retrofit the 40-year-old St. Thomas house where it fosters at-risk children. Foster said Nana Baby will install rooftop solar panels, solar-powered hot water heaters and energy-efficient appliances.

"This is huge for us because we rely basically on donations from the community," Foster said.

Gretchen Sherrill, shelter manager for St. Croix Animal Welfare Center, said its $45,000 grant will be used to overhaul the center's indoor and outdoor lighting systems.

Upgrading the shelter's electricity-guzzling tube lights seemed like the logical first step in reducing energy use, Sherrill said.

"We couldn't jump right ahead to solar panels when we had 1970s lighting," Sherrill said.

Kosak said the government-funded upgrades are good for the church's bottom line and fit in with his organization's broader mission.

"Since we are called to be good stewards of God's creation and of the resources given to us by parishioners, we need to invest more of our time, talent and treasure for a greater understanding of our environment," Kosak said in his grant application.

"The Caribbean has many natural resources, particularly the sun, and we need to find alternate sources of energy to help decrease our dependence on the traditional source of power -- oil," Kosak said. St. Thomas

- Boy Scouts of America, $50,000 for solar generation.

- Nana Baby Children's Home, $50,000 for solar hot water heater and new lighting.

- St. Thomas Reform Church, $50,000 for outdoor solar lights.

- University of the Virgin Islands Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning center, $50,000 for education program.

- Montessori School, $50,000 for photovoltaic energy-generating system.

- Humane Society, $50,000 for indoor and outdoor lighting.

- Pistarckle Theater, $44,000 for air conditioning and lights

- WTJX, $50,000 for solar-powered lights.

- Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, $36,000 for solar outdoor lights, ceiling and window insulation, and solar water heating.

- Lutheran Church of the Reformation, $47,000 for high-efficiency air conditioning and lighting.

St. Croix

- St. Croix Reformed Church, $50,000 for wind turbine.

- The Garden School Inc., $28,675 for energy education classes and solar pump.

- St. Croix Foundation, $50,000 for photovoltaic system with battery backup.

- St. Joseph's High School, $46,192 for lighting controls, motion detectors and energy-efficient appliances.

- St. Croix Animal Shelter, $45,000 for indoor and outdoor lighting upgrade.

- St. Ann's Catholic Church, $50,000 for efficient lighting and air conditioning.

- St. Croix Country Day School, $50,000 for lighting throughout building.

St. John

- Gifft Hill School, $49,948 for photovoltaic electric generation.

- Virgin Islands Environmental Research Station, $50,000 for photovoltaic system and solar-powered hot water heater.

- Information provided by Don Buchanan, Energy Office spokesman

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To see more of The Virgin Islands Daily News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas


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