The Jefferson Valley Mall is on its way to becoming a self-sustainable, green mall.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, the mall staff flipped a switch and turned on the newly installed solar panels on its roof. The mall is now a self-sustaining center, running on solar energy.
Jefferson Valley Mall General Manager Alexa O’Rourke said the mall was one of 150 Washington Prime Group community centers to go through the solar panel project.
“It’s one way that were creating, not only Washington Prime Group but at the mall here, another way for us to be environmentally conscious, to tell the community we care about them, we care about our energy use,” O’Rourke said.
Sen. Pete Harckham joined the mall’s staff and guests to celebrate the mall’s clean energy initiative.
“I think it is so important what’s happening here in terms of the solar panels on the roof,” Harckham said. “The fact that this mall, this massive facility, is now off the grid is a remarkable thing.”
Harckham said the mall installing solar panels is the equivalent of taking thousands of cars off the road, which will help clean New York State’s air and reduce carbon emissions.
Assemblyman Kevin Byrne thanked the Washington Prime Group staff and mall management for being environmentally conscious.
“Thank you for stepping up as a good corporate neighbor here, going green and realizing not only the economic benefits of going green with renewable energy but also the environmental benefits and doing this not just for yourself, for the JV Mall, but also for the community, for the residents and the people of New York State,” Byrne said.
Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert commended the mall’s leadership and their ability to think outside of the box, coming up with new ideas and innovations.
“I believe that’s what we’re doing here today. Alexa, you not only talk the talk but you’re walking the walk and that is what is so inspiring and it will inspire others to move in the same direction,” Gilbert said.
Students from the Lakeland Central School District spoke about the climate and the mall’s choice to switch to solar energy. Many of the students in attendance said they have solar panels on their own homes, knowing firsthand the benefits of going green.
“The proactive efforts of all is necessary in order for us to develop a healthy, sustainable future. The Jefferson Valley Mall’s implementation of clean solar energy is a significant positive step in the right direction,” Walter Panas High School senior Grace Romer said.
Romer, along with Panas juniors Maya Ramon and Sophia Arias and sophomore Kayley Strang, is a member of the high school’s Environmental Club. The club raises money for environmental charities such as Oceana and runs a recycling program in the school.
Matthew Hayes, a fifth-grader from Benjamin Franklin Elementary, told the crowd about solar energy as part of his environmental project.
“Using solar now can save the environment for my generation and more to come. The mall is contributing to that world by going solar today and if that isn’t convincing enough, your wallet with thank you for low energy bills. Just look at my mom’s,” Hayes said.
Washington Prime Group, in conjunction with Safari Energy, is currently working to make the mall a 100 percent green energy community center. O’Rourke said the installation of solar panels is the first of many energy efficient projects the mall will be implementing.