School solar project and upgrades

$50 of $10k goal

Raised by 1 person in 25 days
Steve O'Neil
for Earthshine Nature Programs

Who are we?

Earthshine Nature Programs was founded in 2010 by naturalist Steve O'Neil  under the front porch of Earthshine Discovery Center in Lake Toxaway, NC.

We were officially incorporated as a tax exempt 501c3 charity in 2014 and are now a seperate business entity from Earthshine Discovery Center but maintain close ties with our namesake.  

The mission of Earthshine Nature Programs (ENP)
is to provide a unique learning environment and education opportunities that will foster a lasting interest, respect, love and hopefully greater conservation of wildlife, wild places, and the fragile environment that supports us all. 

We provide exciting experiential outreach programming to everyone by taking our wildlife & nature conservation & renewable energy messages on the road to local, regional, communities via schools, libraries, camps, churches, special events, festivals, private homes and other public and private organizations and online via our website , Youtube channel , blog and Facebook page. 

We have created and maintain a one of a kind, partially solar powered/heated, nature, environmental and science education classroom that is open to our students throughout the week and to the public by appointment.

We provide a wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation based program for the continued care, conservation and study of our native wildlife specifically the more misunderstood animals such as reptiles, amphibians and Opossums.

We function as a collaborative entity seeking to work with other like-minded organizations with the goals of wildlife and nature conservation, education and exploration, nature and science awareness, and the promotion and expansion of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, micro-hydro, electric vehicles and their support infrastructure.

Trails Partnership
In 2012 we partnered with Trails Carolina and the Academy at Trails Carolina to form the Trails Science Program. 

With the Trails Science program our goal is to renew our student's connections with a childhood curiosity in science, nature, wildlife, the environment, and how the world works.  We work to impart positive examples, interests, and constructive reasons to get excited and inspired again about science and the natural world we all share.

Our unique, hands-on, environmental and applied science classes, programs and projects have real purpose and real goals that serve to give our students the chance to step outside the box and take the steps to make lasting, positive changes in their lives in order to create a "new normal" in themselves and in their relationships with friends, family members, and with the natural world around them.

In class, our students experience, learn, build, think, and are inspired by directly contributing to lasting wildlife, ecology, nature conservation and renewable energy projects that work to make their lives and their world, a better place.

The Science & Nature Center 
Our science and nature center classroom is located on the beautiful, wooded, campus of The Academy at Trails Carolina adjascent to 10,300 acre DuPont Forest , NC. In this rustic, log cabin science lab we host a variety of tame animals that were former pets that we have adopted as education animals.  A few of our animals are rehabilitated wild animals that cannot be released for a variety of reasons.

Both Trails Carolina and The Academy at Trails Carolina students work with naturalist Steve O'Neil aka "Science" Steve as they call him, to learn all about and care for these animals during scheduled class times.  This hands-on, one on one care of our resident animals leads to a deeper inquisitiveness which fosters a greater level of understanding and respect with many students often forming bonds with the animals that frequently lead to amazing changes and personal growth within the students.

We believe that it is the open minded students and lifelong learners of today that will make the big wildlife, nature and energy conservation decisions of the future so it is our goal to give them the best possible exposure to the realities of these disciplines and practices by experiencing, discovering, demonstrating, building and producing, what is possible for today and for tomorrow in and out of the classroom.

                Why are we asking for your support? 

Earthshine Nature Programs is a very small 501c3 not for profit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation and rehabilitation,  science literacy and renewable energy education. We are donation funded and volunteer operated therefore, we are supported primarily through monetary, resource, and time donations from caring individuals just like you.

Your donation will directly support our students in their science and environmental education programming, nature appreciation and understanding, and personal growth for themselves and their connections with family, wildlife,  and the environment.  

Your donation will directly support our education and rehab animals by providing the much needed habitat and life-support components that will keep their habitats and support systems running smoothly for many years into the future. 

We are holding this Gofundme campaign to raise support (funds and/or equipment) for our current projects and programs.  These projects and programs are listed below in order of most need.  Please consider donating to one or all of our projects.  You may choose to earmark your donation(s) to the projects of your choice.  You may donate via this Gofundme campaign or you may donate individual items of your choice using our Amazon wish list or through the PayPal link on our website's donate page .

All donations are tax deductible - receipts provided upon request.


                       Our most ambitious project so far! 

Earthshine Nature Programs and Trails Science is working to develop an environmental education classroom and wildlife rehabilitation facility powered by clean, renewable energy!  Our goal with this wonderful project is to drastically reduce our carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels by taking advantage of the most renewable energy source in our little corner of the galaxy – THE SUN!

This 5.3 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array will not only supply our classroom with renewably generated power but it will be a bold teaching tool for the students and visitors of Trails Carolina, The Academy at Trails Carolina, participants of our outreach programming, and our online visitors. It will offer our students a myriad of learning opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM ) education, project-based learning initiatives, environmental education, and conservation experiences. It will also provide a unique web interface technology that will allow the system to be monitored in real-time by our students in class on our campus and anyone from anywhere on the planet via our website and blogs!

Once online, this solar farm will not only provide much of the power used by the science classroom but it will also provide enough solar generated electricity to power the ENP nonprofit outreach education vehicle, an all-electric Nissan Leaf !

Why Solar?  
It is clear that our dependence on fossil fuels is getting us into a real bind with climate change, local and international resource, land rights, human rights, political and international issues.  The consensus among scientists and forward thinkers of the world agree that it is time to begin the phase-out of fossil fuel powered energy and transportation sources and ramp up the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicle technologies to power and to move our society.  On top of all these reasons it is just the smart and responsible thing to do.  

By installing this one of a kind solar power station at our classroom, our students and visitors will benefit greatly from the applied use of renewable energy technologies in class by experiencing the first hand functioning of real world, renewable energy applications such as solar-electric power, and electric vehicles.  

Some of our students celaning the 600 watt solar array that we built in class 2 years ago as a pilot project for our current 5.3 kW array! 

In our unique solar powered science classroom our students will bust through the negative myths often associated with renewable energy and electric vehicles by studying first hand, and assisting with the maintenance of, fully functioning solar and EV technologies in class.  After leaving Trails our graduates will be more up to date, connected, and ready to accept the reality of, and make use of, sustainable, clean energy power and transportation systems to power their lives and their futures.

Our students think Electric Vehicles are just so cool!

To make this grand vision a reality ENP partnered with Black Bear Solar Institute (BBSI) in Towensend, Tennessee with the goal of installing a state of the art off-grid solar array that will allow the Trails Science and Nature Center to one day become fully self-powered by the sun!  In October of 2016, in working toward this reality, the students and I broke ground and began installing this new solar array! Follow the updates below in working toward the day our solar array will go online.  

I will continue to post updates and photos on this page throughout this campaign. 

BACKGROUND: In the fall of 2015 we received a wonderful donation of 20 - 240 watt solar modules (panels) from Frank Marshall of FLS Energy (now Cypress Creek Renewables ) in Asheville, NC!  

Following this amazing donation, Bob Harris of BBSI donated the charge controllers, solar array support racking, wiring and conduit to our project!  WOW!!

                             THANK YOU BOB AND BBSI!
Following these amazing doantions both Bob Harris, and Jim Hardy pledged to donate their time and expertice to the project in the form of technical and construction assistance - and construction began. 

UPDATE #1 DATE: 9/15/16
The solar array's support structure was delivered today!

UPDATE #2 DATE: 10/30/16
Over the weekend Jim Hardy and I installed the header boards that will hold the bracketing system that will be the top support of the solar array.

UPDATE #3  DATE: 11/1/16
Today in class the students and I moved some soil from the area where the solar array support pilings will be anchored and Jim Hardy and I constructed and attached the bracketing system that will connect the array's support framework to the building.

UPDATE #4 DATE: 11/5/16
Today I worked with Jim Hardy and ENP intern Blaine to install the first trusses for the solar array support framework! Below is a photo of Jim and I and the new framework after installation - it is finally taking shape :-)  Note our classroom's pilot 600 watt solar project in the background - still cranking out power after two years of operation!  This small array will be coupled with the large array to produce even more power :-) 

Update #5 Date: 12/17/16 

Today we moved one step closer to pouring the concrete for the footings when ENP intern Blaine worked to install and level the forms. 

UPDATE #6 Date: 1/20/17
The classroom solar array is COMPLETE! After several months of work by my students, interns, Jim and Bob we have completed our classroom solar array!  It is truly a beautiful thing to know that soon we will be producing our own renewable energy, giving our education animals and classroom/office a more stable power system, reducing our carbon footprint, and above all educating our youth on good energy choices to power their futures! Now we only need to fund the components that will allow it to connect the array to the building's power grid and then we will start producing clean, renewable energy from the sun! 

UPDATE #7 Date 3/26/17 

I have completed a video documenting the construction of the solar array.  View it through this YouTube link and read all about it on this Wordpress blog post I authored on the ENP blog. 

UPDATE #8 Date 4/3/17
Almost everything is in place to turn on the power to our new solar array however, we lack the storage batteries that will store power for use by the habitat and building's systems at night or during bad weather.  Funding the batteries are the primary reason we have created this GoFundMe campaign.  Please help us raise the funds to buy the batteries to make this solar power station operational.  Details of these batteries are in the following outline. 

The following outline shows all of the primary components that have already been donated to this project – they include.  

*The Solar Panels. 22 - 240 watt solar modules – donated by Frank Marshall of FLS Energy, a local utility scale solar installation company from Asheville, NC. 
Approximate value at time of donation: $10,000 

*The charge controllers.  Two (2) Morningstar 600 Volt charge controllers with DC disconnects –Donated by Bob Harris of BBSI. Value: $3,600. These devices will monitor the output of the solar panels and the needs of the batteries and regulate the power as the batteries need it.  They are “smart” devices that will allow us to monitor their status from anywhere with an internet connection.

*Electrical Panels, Wiring and Conduit for the Solar Control System. Donated by Bob Harris of BBSI. Value: $600.00 

*Aluminum Racking for solar panels. Donated by Bob Harris of BBSI. Value: $3,922

*Construction materials.  Donated by Earthshine Nature Programs. Value $1800

*While not directly a part of the solar power system the below items have also been donated to our science classroom.  These items will reduce the energy needs of our classroom therby making our facility more energy efficient and in turn allowing us to make better use of the energy we produce on site via the solar array.

*LED Classroom lighting systems.  Donated by Trails Carolina/Academy. Value $300

*Four new low energy solid state computers with two low energy 4K LED monitors.
Bob Harris of Siemens Corporation
Value $13,188

*Energy star rated Samsung 55" flat screen TV donated by Trails Carolina Naturalist & ENP Executive Director 
Steve O'Neil Value $700

*Electric motor and components for the conversion of a gas rototiller to electric for use in our organic garden.   Donated by Bob Harris of Siemens Corporation. Value $400

Other monatary donations to this project to date:  

$1000 donated by Jewell Mimms
$1000 donated by Dr. Billy Hagler
$500 donated by Dr. Linda Martinson and Andrew Stratton

             Total value of donations to date: $37,010
While we have recieved these amazing donations moving us toward our final goal, we lack only one set of key components that will allow this system to function as intended. These components are listed below. 

                         PRIMARY ITEMS STILL NEEDED
                            to bring the solar array online

Storage Batteries
Trojan L16 AGM Batteries
Use: Stores electricity for nighttime/cloudy day use
Number needed: 16
Cost: Each around $400
Total Need: $6,400
Source: Bob Harris will arrange with supplier to save on cost and shipping.
If you would like to support us with a donation of these batteries please contact us.  If you would like to donate funds to cover the cost of these batteries annonymously please do so via this campaign or through the PayPal link on our Donate Page. 

These batteries are the only reamining components needed to make this solar power system operational.  Please consider assisting us with this grand project today!  THANK YOU!!


Project #2: Upgrades Needed for our Science and Nature Center Classroom and Education Animal Habitats
It takes a lot of work to keep a non-profit dedicated to misunderstood animals, wildlife conservation, rescue and rehabilitation and science and renewable energy education running smoothly and effectively. 

From animal feed and healthcare to habitat and life support systems maintenance, and special projects...all of these things add up to make our science and nature center a truly one of a kind education facility that makes a great difference in the lives and futures of our animals and our students--the future caretakers of our fragile shared earth and all its wild creatures.

Through our wonderful partnership with Trails Carolina and The Academy at Trails Carolina in which we provide daily nature, science, and environmental education classes to their student populations of at-risk middle and high school age boys and girls, your support will directly support these students in their growth, appreciation, understanding and support of themselves and in turn the wild places and wild things we share this beautiful planet with.  

To make this happen we need your help.

Our current wishlist consists of major habitat, education and infrastructure supporting items.  The components we are in need of are listed below with links to the items should you decide to help us shorten our wishlist by supporting this campaign.    If you choose to support us anonymously, you may do so by using our Amazon Wish List or PayPal link on our donate page .

Education Animal Habitat Supplies
Some of our most popular and most environmentally sensitive education animals are our Eastern hellbenders - “Gollum and Smeagol.”  They are in great need of a primary component of their habitat’s life support system for their 125 gallon mountain stream habitat.

1. New aquarium water chiller for our Eastern Hellbender Habitat 

This unit will replace the older, secondhand, home-built chiller unit with new, more energy efficient and reliable unit for our most sensitive animal habitat.

Classroom supplies
The Earthshine Nature Programs (ENP) outreach team visits many local camps, schools, private organizations and public festivals in order to fulfill its nature and science education mission.  ENP’s Executive Director Steve O’Neil also has a full time partnership with Trails Carolina and The Academy at Trails Carolina where he teaches twice daily, three hour long science based environmental education, wildlife and nature conservation and renewable energy education classes for the student populations from both schools. Although the schools supply him with the use of a building and many wonderful educational materials and training, Steve always tries to go above and beyond to supply what he believes is the “icing on the cake” with more interesting and unique educational materials for many of his class programs and special projects. He covers the cost of these educational offerings via funds raised through ENP programming and often out of pocket.  These items then become property of ENP and will be used in outreach activities and classes while Steve is employed by Trails for many, many years to come. 

1. Dissection Microscope with USB connectivity

From pond water to printed circuits this amazing microscope will be connected to the flatscreen TV allowing the entire class to view what the microscope is viewing.

AmScope microscope with digital camera attachment model# SM-1TSW2-L6W-5M  or the Omax Microscope from our Amazon wishlist.

2. LUXOR MB7240WW (or comparable) Reversible Magnetic Whiteboard via Amazon wishlist.
This portable whiteboard will greatly enhance Steve's classroom and outreach lessons as well as Science and Nature Center systems planning and design. 


Field Science/Wildlife Conservation Project Upgrades
Trails Science/ENP is conducting unique wildlife conservation focused student/citizen science field research projects.  These projects are working to learn as much as possible about the natural movements of wild reptiles and amphibians that live in association with areas frequently used and modified by humans.  

                 Naturalist Steve O'Neil with a friend

These projects serve to educate our students and other participants (and viewers/readers via our web based outreach on our YouTube channel , Facebook page and Blog ) on the biology, life history, and intrinsic beauty and value of these often very misunderstood creatures and their important interconnections to healthy ecosystems, a healthy earth, and healthy humans.  These student citizen science projects are collecting meaningful, scientific data on the ecology and life history of these animals.  This data will directly benefit our students and the conservation of these species for many years to come.  As always, technical projects such as these require technical gear and the main items we are in need of are as follows. 

1. Kestrel 4500 Pocket Weather Meter

We would like to acquire a Kestrel 4500 Pocket Weather Meter (or a similar unit) to allow high quality weather data measurement at the time of each study animal’s location.  Find it on our Amazon wishlist.

2. Garmin GPSMAP 62S GPS
Our current GPS is 7 years old and is having issues and therefore it needs to be replaced.  This, or a similar unit, would suit our needs perfectly.  Find it on our Amazon wishlist.   


These are the primary items we are currently in need of but we are always open to general donations of new and used items applicable for our needs, programming and projects. Please feel free to contact us for more information or if you prefer,  donate anonymously via our PayPal donate button on our 
donate page.


A note from Executive Director Steve O'Neil

I am working very hard to complete the classroom solar array and all of these upgrades and enhancements for the benefit of my students and education animals.  I am doing this under my very small wildlife, nature and science conservation, education and outreach organization Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3) which is supported primarily through monetary, resource, and time donations from concerned individuals just like you. 

Please consider supporting us in any way you are able.  If you are unable to support us at this time please, if you know of any possible monetary or component donation sources and/or granting options please do share this document with them.  

Every little bit helps us get closer to our grand goals that will serve to upgrade our education animal habitats, classroom, and research equipment, and power our education facility and outreach vehicle via the endless energy from the sun and most importantly – educate and inspire middle and high school aged children (and anyone that will listen) on the proper respect and understanding of wildlife and wild places and the wise and responsible application of clean energy sources that we can all use to provide for, and empower our shared futures.

I am passionate about sharing my love, curiosity, and respect for nature, wildlife and wild places with everyone I meet – especially my students and outreach program participants.  It is the students and children of today that will make the big wildlife, nature, science, and energy decisions of the future.  It is my goal to give them the best possible exposure to the best ethics and best practices of these most important disciplines so they will be better informed and ready to change the world for the better as they mature.  

I feel that by demonstrating what is possible, and working together toward the common goal of creating and maintaining a better world for all living things, we will be able to make all of our dreams come true for the betterment and health of us all and in support of the planet that supports us.   


Steve O’Neil

Executive Director of Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3)
Naturalist with Trails Carolina and The Academy at Trails Carolina

Naturalist Steve O'Neil with a "Turtle Dog " and radio tracking device. 

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$50 of $10k goal

Raised by 1 person in 25 days
Created April 3, 2017
Funds raised will benefit:
Earthshine Nature Programs
  Certified Charity
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Pisgah Forest, NC
EIN: 273465594
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  1. You make a donation using a PayPal account or a credit/debit card to PayPal Giving Fund (a 501(c)(3) charitable organization).
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Bonny Schley
20 days ago

Keep up the good work!

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