Solar-Powered House Makes Sigma Chi History

Cal. State-Fresno chapter house solar panels a first for Fraternity

While speaking with his family’s financial advisor, Order of Constantine Sig Mike Patton, CAL. STATE-FRESNO 1966, was asked a question that motivated him to give back to his undergraduate chapter.

A longtime volunteer and former Cal. State-Fresno house corporation board member, Patton recalled being asked, “‘If your doctor told you that you only had six months to live, would you do anything with your estate that is different from your current will?’ My wife was satisfied, but I thought about the Fraternity. I didn’t want to just add the Fraternity to my will; I wanted to make a difference before I died.”
 
In a state with ample amounts of sunshine and high electricity costs, using solar energy to power the chapter house always made perfect sense to the alumni and brothers of the chapter at California State University, Fresno. For Patton, it was the perfect way to give back.
 
In early August, thanks to Patton’s contribution, the chapter made Fraternity history by becoming the first chapter to have a house fully supported and sustained by solar energy.
 
The 135-panel installation, mounted on a structure to the rear of the house, was made in honor of the late Order of Constantine Sig and Significant Sig Steve Heinrichs, CAL. STATE-FRESNO 1968, for his many years of service to the chapter, Sigma Chi and Cal. State-Fresno community.
 
The system, installed by Sol-Tek, will generate 97 percent of the chapter’s annual $17,700 electricity charges and provide shade, improved security lighting and two charging stations for electric vehicles.
 
“Having served on the house corporation board for a decade, I knew how difficult it was to maintain the house without adequate resources,” says Patton. “California has one of the highest electrical rates and lots of sunshine. The system should last 30 years, and, over that time, it will generate five times the initial investment in cash flow to the house corporation. This will allow the house corporation to provide amenities and maintenance that will help give our undergraduate brothers the best possible fraternity experience,” he says.
 
The largest fraternity chapter on the Cal. State-Fresno campus, Epsilon Eta has had a presence at the school since 1952 and eight of its alumni have buildings or programs on campus named in their honor.
 
Patton hopes the solar-panel installation is something in which the present and future Sigs at the school will take pride. He also hopes it will help enhance a lifelong experience that has impacted his life.
 
“I have contributed to many nonprofits over the years and didn’t get much satisfaction,” Patton adds. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the Fraternity that gave me most of my best friends for my entire life, most of the fun experiences during my entire life, a great social education while I was getting an academic one, and finally, shaped my career.
 
“I wanted to help make possible these same things for our brothers in the active chapter, and really make a positive difference in their lives,” he says.