It was delayed by the pandemic, but finally seniors can celebrate an initiative that is certain to bring about positive change. That was the theme at a dedication ceremony held August 21, where a small group of social distancing, environmentally conscious community members gathered at the SSAC in Sechelt. They came together to honour a former Sechelt resident for his significant contribution to the climate change movement on the coast. On the roof above them, 28 solar panels at the centre were hard at work, saving the Senior Centre over $100 a month in Hydro bills. The goal will be increased savings as more panels go up. Members were told they will be able to go on the new SSAC website to monitor the positive results for themselves on a daily basis.
The honoured guest unfortunately was not present. Dr. James Pawley passed away suddenly in March of 2019, however his family’s generous $10,000 donation in his name funded 16 of the solar panels. There was also a grant from the Sunshine Coast Credit Union and other personal donations, which helped pay for the other 12 panels. This community support was received with the SSAC’s deepest gratitude.
Dr. Pawley, a former electrical engineer with a PhD in biophysics, became a passionate campaigner for climate change in his senior years. This important issue for him grew as he taught at the University of Wisconsin and UBC during his celebrated career as an educator. Dr. Pawley, his wife Christine and their three children always loved the Sunshine Coast and he and his wife retired here. Thankfully for all of us, the good doctor never stopped campaigning for climate change. He organized a march for change in Vancouver and Washington, DC. He was active in the Clean Air Society and the Sunshine Coast Community Solar Association. It was his wish that his legacy contribution would see a community solar array installed in Sechelt and the SSAC is the benefactor of his generosity.
Sechelt’s Dennis Olson, president of Olson Electric/Alternative Power Systems was in attendance at the celebration to honour Dr. Pawley. Dennis is a leader within the solar energy industry in BC, and shares Pawley’s passion. He installed the solar panels at the center at cost, and is ready to add more when the SSAC has more funds available. His contribution is greatly appreciated.
Olson told the gathering,“Pawley’s enthusiasm for renewables was infectious.”Gayle Neilson, past president of the Sunshine Coast Community Solar Association said the panels “are a fitting legacy that would make Jim proud.”Ken White speaking for the SSAC’s Board as its VP, added,“Dr. Pawley’s gift keeps on giving, helping more people understand the benefits of solar power.”
An additional 120 panels on the roof will reduce the SSAC’s hydro bottom line to net zero, which means that electricity would be free. Members and philanthropic residents can make this happen. Contributions to the centre for more panels or other needs are tax deductible. Hopefully Dr. Pawley’s dream will make us all recognize that climate change is real and more solar panels will make the Sechelt Seniors Activity Centre self sufficient in hydro energy.