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 nonprofit business will involve 100 percent organically grown and recyclable products, local suppliers, Energy Star appliances, and both solar water heating and solar photovoltaic technologies.

The coffee shop project will serve as a learning tool that will cross many academic disciplines and touch several hundred students across the 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 Ron Proffitt, Virginia Highlands president.
Besides providing experience to business students in running a self-sustaining coffee shop, the project also will 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 students from business, marketing, drafting, web design, ecology, heating and air conditioning, and electricity and energy technology.

The Dominion grant will help pay for materials and supplies and for construction that is necessary to get the coffee shop up and running. It will be located in a high-visibility area, which the university hopes will help in achieving a project goal of making students, faculty members and visitors more aware of the need for 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 among 16 grants totaling $500,000 made this year by the Dominion Foundation to Virginia colleges and universities. The grants are part of a new giving program created especially for higher education. 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.