By Doug White, Co-Chair, ESRAG Climate Solutions Task Force

The Rotary Club of St. Thomas East ECO received a $55,000 Rotary International Global Grant for a solar refrigeration system for the Bordeaux Farmers Market. The 15-kilowatt PV array and 15 kW lithium battery backup will keep refrigerated food safe at the Bordeaux Farmers Market during the island’s frequent blackouts, while also ensuring the system will produce net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.   On Sunday, December 11, 2022, members of Rotary East Eco presented a large facsimile check to We Grow Food Inc. (WGFI) who operate the Farmers Market.

This reliable, clean energy will provide many benefits to the Farmers Market and community:

  • Estimated energy cost savings of $259,570 over 25 years for the farmers, contributing to the island’s community economic development.
  • Battery back-up power during frequent power outages or storms, providing the WGFI with resilience and disaster preparedness capabilities.
  • Reduced food waste: perishable items will now be able to be properly stored for future use or sale rather than be discarded.
  • Enhanced local food security.
  • Clean energy: CO2 emissions reduced 333 tons over 20 years.
  • Reduction to the farmers’ high energy burden, which is twice that of mainland US farmers.
  • Promotion of locally-grown organic food.
  • Encouragement and incentives for the adoption of a Plant-Rich Diet.
  • Energy equity and climate justice

Funding for the entire project came from a variety of Rotary and other local sources. Local Rotary donations included St. Thomas Rotary East Eco Club and Rotary District 7020. Rotary East Eco’s contribution came from a private donation by Brad Camrud through Solarize St. Thomas’ “Share the Sun” Program.

Rotary International partners in the Global Grant included the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor North, Michigan, and Rotary District 6380, the Rotary Club of Toledo, Ohio, and District 6600, the Rotary Club of Boise, Idaho, and District 5400, the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, Kauai, HI, and the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG), Eastern North America Regional Chapter.  All the Rotary support came through members of our Climate Solutions Task Force network and our ESRAG Eastern North America Regional Chapter, so being part of ESRAG  helped fund this Protecting the Environment Area of Focus project.

Additional local support for the project came from the Virgin Islands Community Foundation (CFVI) which donated $20,000 for the solar installation.  A 10’x10’ walk-in cooler and a backup generator were donated by the Food Producers Network of World Central Kitchen.  The solar installation will be completed by Silver Sun Solar.

Photo L to R: St. Thomas Rotary East Eco Club members, Katherine Shegrud, Rev. Debbi Jackson, Leslie White, Doug White and Rev. Andrew Jackson present a check to We Grow Food Inc., President Eldridge Thomas. Photo credit S. Shegrud