We all know Ronald McDonald, the chief of happiness of the fast-food empire. He’s been clowning around for nearly 50 years, while the Ronald McDonald House Charities has been in the serious business of helping sick children and their families since 1974.

The first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia thanks to Dr. Audrey Evans, Philadelphia Eagles’ player Fred Hill (whose daughter had leukemia), Eagles’ General Manager Jim Murray and McDonald’s Regional Manager Ed Rensi. Since then, nearly 300 houses have been established in 52 countries.

For the past 30 years, due to the work of volunteers and contributions from donors, San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House has provided more than 140,000 nights of lodging for more than 14,000 families whose children face life-threatening illnesses and are receiving treatment at area hospitals. Last year, a new 47-bedroom facility—which quadrupled accommodations to serve the needs of 20,000 families per year—was built atop a six-story parking garage.

“The new facility has four times more space than our old one and a large, flat roof—perfect for a solar installation,” said public relations representative Mary Schmidt-Krebs. “It made the house environmentally sustainable, but more importantly, the money we are saving on our electric bill now goes to help our families.”

The 147,846 kilowatt-hour-per-year solar installation was designed and built by HelioPower and financed by Helio Micro Utility. It consists of 518 Canadian Solar CS6P-220P polycrystalline modules. These modules are top-ranked in the industry’s photovoltaic (PV) USA ratings. PV Powered Inc., an Advanced Energy company, supplied the 100-kilowatt inverter. Canadian Solar, HelioPower and PV Powered all made price reductions to benefit the charity.

“Ronald McDonald House decided to pursue solar energy to create a healthy and sustainable environment for the children and families we serve,” said Bill Lennartz, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House of San Diego. “Our partners have been vital to our success as a resource to families in some of the most challenging times of their lives, and we are excited to now be producing clean solar energy to help us provide care to even more families.”