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Churches Go Solar

Tuesday, July 17th 2012 2:09 PM
By GetSolar Staff.
Churches Go Solar Homes and businesses across the United States have embraced solar energy. Now, churches are starting to embrace the benefits of solar as well.

From California and Arizona to New Jersey and Massachusetts, churches and other houses of worship are increasingly looking toward solar energy as the way to generate power for the congregation.

California Success Stories

Recently, the Visalia Church of the Nazarene in Visalia, California, elected to install solar panels on its rooftop.

“Some committee members were very concerned about minimizing the usage of the resources God has provided us while others were concerned about saving money and the bottom line,” Wil Hobbs, the church's executive pastor, said of the decision.

In particular, Hobbs highlighted the economic benefits to the church. He said the church will save about $7,000 on its utility bills within the first year from this California solar installation.

"The savings will free up our funds to be used for really great things in the community, like distributing food and helping the 1,300 kids who go through our sports ministry,” Hobbs said.

Visalia Church of the Nazarene is now one of an estimated 550 congregations in California with a solar power installation, according to the California Interfaith Power and Light organization.

The group, in its most recent emissions reduction report, says that its members in total saved about $2.4 million on energy costs thanks to solar panels and other conservation efforts.

Arizona Success Stories

Churches and other religious groups in Arizona have also seen the benefits of turning to solar panels for their energy needs.

Take, for example, St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church in Tucson. In June, the church installed 252 solar panels to provide all of its electricity needs. Of the 252 panels, 60 were set up to form a canopy above the entrance to provide shade, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

In Arizona and elsewhere, churches are not the only religious organizations increasingly switching to solar photovoltaic power. The Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus in Scottsdale last year set up solar panels to provide electricity and solar water heating. The campus, because of this solar facility, will reduce its energy bills by 11 percent, and this will result in $450,000 saved over the next decade, according to the Arizona Republic.

"Savings will be immediate as our lease payment for the solar equipment will be less than our electricity and gas bills combined," Robert Silver, chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, said. "As a community, we are doing our part for Tikkun Olam, a Jewish tradition to repair our world."

East Coast Success Stories

Even churches in colder parts of the United States are increasingly looking to solar power. In states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey, many churches have added solar panels.

The South Church, a 300-year-old congregation in Andover, Massachusetts, added 160 solar panels to the rooftop of its 152-year-old church building last June. The church anticipates drawing about 90 percent of its power from the photovoltaic panels, according to the Eagle Tribune.

"Many of us would have been happy to reduce our carbon footprint even if we were to break even financially," church member Bill Schroeder told the newspaper. "But it turns out with today's incentives you can save money on the electric bill."

Churches in New Jersey have also looked to solar panels to provide for their power needs. For example, St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Medford installed solar panels on its rooftop in 2010, and the Cherry Hill Unitarian Universalist Church added solar panels earlier this year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"There are churches all over the place crying for solar," Don Powell of Powell Energy & Solar said to the Inquirer.

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