Congregations across the country are making a commitment to renew God’s Creation through renewable energy. From coast to coast, many congregations see installing solar panels as a way to practice stewardship of God’s Creation, invest in their local communities and set their churches up for future financial savings.
According to Rev. Scott Benhase, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC decided to install their solar panels because they recognized that there is “a moral dimension to the energy choices we make”. The congregation refers to their solar panels as our “newest stained-glass windows”, comparing the stories of traditional stained glass windows telling of God’s redeeming love to the story told by the solar panels shining on the church roof. “They tell of God’s love for us by giving us this beautiful Earth and our responsibility to care for it wisely” says Rev. Benhase. St. Alban’s is not the only congregation to reduce their carbon footprint and care for God’s Creation through solar panels. First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, FL installed solar panels and has saved enough energy to power one home for one year!
Some congregations and schools are motivated to install solar panels in order set an example of good stewardship practices for those in their communities. Trinity Episcopal school in Austin, Texas has installed 270 solar panels on the roof of its Blue House Hall, giving them the largest solar panel array in the city. Head of School Pat Adams said, “In addition to allowing the school to devote more resources to the classroom as a result of the cost savings, these initiatives also set a powerful example and offer a valuable teaching tool for our students.” Similarly, Faith United Methodist Churchin Champaign, IL is first LEED certified building in Champaign-Urbana and the first church in Illinois to be so to designated. Faith UMC was given the LEED silver certification in 2006. One of the green features of their green building is a solar water heater. According to Doug Abbot, Director of Church Administration, “the congregation decided to build a LEED certified building because they wanted to serve as a model for other churches and organizations in the community.”
Central Baptist Church in Wayne, PA made an investment in clean, renewable energy and installed 48 solar panel arrays on the church roof. These 48 panels produce 9.6 KW of electricity and will supply approximately 30 percent of the 40,000 kWh of electricity that the church uses per year. The congregation estimates that if their solar panels generate 11,600 KWh of electricity per year they will save approximately $1,740 annually at current electric rates. The congregation can also generate income through the sale of renewable energy credits. Central Baptist Church funded their solar project largely through grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Harvest Program and the Department of Economic and Community Development. They aren’t the only congregation who has come up with a creative way to fund their solar project. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek, CA has also developed a creative way to finance their solar panels.
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