Southwestern Virginia College Gets Grant for Solar-Powered Coffee Shop

The coffee shop project will serve as a learning tool that will cross many academic disciplines and involve several hundred students across the 4,000-student campus.

Virginia Highlands Community College students soon will be able to start their day with a cup of coffee from a solar-powered, eco-friendly coffee shop.

The Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources Inc., has awarded a $30,000 grant to the 4,000-student community college for the development of "Wolf Grounds," an on-campus, student-run coffee shop. The non-profit business will involve 100 percent organically grown and recyclable products, local suppliers, Energy Star appliances, and both solar hot-water heating and solar photovoltaic technologies.

The coffee shop project will serve as a learning tool that will cross many academic disciplines and involve several hundred students across the 4,000-student campus.

"Dominion's grant will allow our students to experience first-hand the process of opening and operating a business within the security of college supervision," said Virginia Highlands President Ron Proffitt. "This is an outstanding opportunity for our students, and we are grateful to Dominion for their support of the college, our students, and this project."

Besides providing experience to business students in running a self-sustaining business, the project will also provide a hands-on learning opportunity to students in solar energy system design, equipment installation, and system maintenance and repair. More than 200 students will be directly involved in the planning and design of the project, including business, marketing, drafting, Web design, ecology, heating and air-conditioning, and electricity and energy-technology students.

The coffee shop, which is scheduled to open in April, will be managed by the college organization Students in Free Enterprise. Roughly half the students involved in the project's development will continue their involvement in the shop's operation. For example, information technology students will continue to maintain the shop's Web page and produce brochures, marketing students will promote the business, and accounting students will manage the books.

The grant will help pay for materials and supplies and for construction necessary to get the coffee shop up and running. The shop will be located in the Learning Resources Building, which houses the college's library, auditorium, business division office and numerous classrooms. The high visibility of this location will help achieve a project goal of making students, faculty, and visitors more aware of the need for eco-friendly and energy-saving measures in their lives.

"Dominion is excited about supporting this hands-on learning project and particularly because of its emphasis on energy conservation, efficiency and alternative energy generation," said Preston Sloane, station director for the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center.

The power station is being built in nearby Wise County, about 30 miles from the campus, by Dominion Virginia Power, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources.

The grant is one of 16 grants totaling $500,000 made this year to Virginia colleges and universities by the Dominion Foundation. The Dominion Foundation focuses its giving on preservation of natural resources, work-force development, education, diversity initiatives, neighborhood and community development and basic needs for food and shelter.