Solar is growing by leaps and bounds and congregations are keeping up installing solar at an ever increasing rate all over the country. They are financing it through a variety of creation options: leasing – for example through the new Catholic Energies leasing program, or buying the array up front through capitol campaigns – sometimes engaging third party crowd-funding services that specialize in solar, or forming member LLCs to invest in the arrays and selling the power to the congregation at a rate lower than the utility, and more. Some are working with community partners to invest in community solar gardens on congregational property so they become a source of energy for their neighborhood and some are investing in community solar gardens run by local utilities.
IPL state affiliate Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light is developing Just Solar Principles to guide everyone to make ethical choices when making solar plans. These principles are: providing access to all regardless of income or credit score, promoting local jobs – especially for the unemployed, women, and people of color, consider the earth in choosing a site, and supporting community owned projects.
Awards for your Solar Congregation
If your congregation has installed solar consider applying for Interfaith Power & Light’s annual Cool Congregations Challenge, a contest with cash prizes. Annual deadline December 15. Click here to learn more.
Or apply to become an Interfaith Power & Light Certified Cool Congregation and join the honored ranks of congregations that have made permanent changes to their facility to reduce emissions by 10% or more. Click here to apply.
For more information contact [email protected]
Congregational Solar Directory
Add your solar congregation to the national Congregational Solar Directory.
Solar Financing Guide coming soon!
It will include a description of the many ways congregations can finance solar, including links to grant and loan programs offered by various religious denominations.
Featured Solar Congregations
Temple Beth El, Stamford, CT – A Cool Congregations Challenge Winner
Largest installation of its kind on a house of worship in the United States, the new, 210 kW Photovoltaic Solar Panel System, utilizes 845 (250 watt) panels on the temple’s 30,000 square foot, white “Energy Smart Solar Ready Roof” (with three inches of insulation). The estimated power production is 237,479 kWh per year, and supplies 70% of the synagogue’s annual electrical needs.
Federated Community Church, Flagstaff, AZ – A Cool Congregations Challenge Winner
This Methodist-Presbyterian church meets in a century-old building that now gets 96 percent of its power from the sun. Congregants can monitor the system’s performance via a link on the church website.
First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, NM – A Cool Congregations Challenge Winner
The Earth Web committee at First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque sponsors courses, sustainability fairs and forums on renewable energy to educate its church community. They explored solar, and after analyzing federal and state regulations, they developed a proposal for a straightforward lease arrangement between a vendor and the church, with the solar energy company handling all the regulatory and tax issues. The church has the option to purchase the system in seven years. The panels were installed on several campus roofs. The 48 kW system is estimated to generate almost 77,000kWh/yr, supplying about 75% of church needs.
Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church, Sedalia, MO
Christ and Trinity has a new 12 kilowatt solar energy system, estimated to produce 15,000 kWh of solar electricity annually. The church is estimated to save $60,000 over the 25-year lifespan of the system. In terms of environmental equivalencies, offsetting 23,332 pounds of CO2 is like eliminating the emissions caused by burning 1,186 gallons of gas each year, or by the annual planting of 271 tree seedlings, grown for 10 years. A member of the community shared, “As a Christian community we are committed to serving God and serving our neighbors — near and far. Moving towards solar electricity is one way we are letting the Son shine.” The Sedalia community learned of the church’s work in caring for creation through newspaper articles and in the synod newsletter. Thanks to the story being shared, other pastors and community members have come to the church to learn how they too can go solar and let the Son shine.
Annapolis Friends Meeting, Annapolis, MD
The Friends installed two EV charging stations in their church parking lot, and wanted to power them from the sun. They began a 9kW solar project back in 2011 but they say it was “fraught with delays by Maryland Zoning that still does not recognize solar panels as a benefit in the Chesapeake Critical Areas.” An added benefit of the solar panels, is that they now have 790 square feet of lawn that is nicely shaded from the harsh summer sun with solar panels. But, most importantly, members are now able to charge their electric vehicles on 100% renewable energy, and the system provides an excellent role model for the community of what’s possible.
St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Falmouth, MA
St. Barnabas has installed a 26.4 KW solar system, comprised of 82 solar panels, that supplies approximately 42% of the electricity used by the entire St. Barnabas campus. Over the life of the system, 976,775 kWh in electricity will be saved. This represents an annual electrical cost savings of 18%. The system is leased, resulting in a project that has no upfront costs to the church and is guaranteed for 30 years and has no maintenance costs. It is anticipated that this $127,066 system will save St. Barnabas approximately $152,820 over the 30 year life of the solar panels. In addition, there will be a reduction of 411 metric tons (882,000 pounds) of CO2 over the life of the system (30 years).
Crosslake Presbyterian Church, Crosslake, MN
This congregation now has a rooftop photovoltaic electricity generating system which is reducing its carbon emissions by five metric tons per year. The solar system is providing energy savings of 18%, while producing 3,500 kWh of surplus energy per year.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
The UU Church of Bloomington now has 96 solar panels, manufactured in the Midwest. In their first seven months they provided 57% of their electricity. And we have a new light-colored, reflective metal roof that is expected to last 50 years, thanks to funds set aside from our capital campaign for building improvements, plus a recent bequest. (See photos of panels on our Fellowship Hall, of our roof & panel dedication, and of the community-wide solar celebration put on by the four Bloomington grant awardees.) Working with five other congregations on this grant has been both informative and inspiring. We have developed close relationships with their green team members, presenting at or attending one another’s workshops and forums. We even helped one another research and implement the installation of LEDs at all four of our facilities. Through these efforts over 1/3 of our member households reduced their household energy use by 14% or showed that they were already well below the national average. And we worked with the other congregations to develop tools based on what each of us had learned. In 2013 we presented three “Using Energy Workshops” at the Indianapolis Center for Congregations to diverse congregations from across Indiana. Ten workshops, being held in eight other cities, are scheduled from January to May 2014, with one in Bloomington in February. These workshops are designed to highlight and strengthen each of the local H-IPL affiliates.
St. Luke Presbyterian Church, Minnetonka, Minnesota….will soon be adding more solar. With federal and state grants, and money saved with solar, they will be installing 96 solar panels, 40kw, on the roof of their church next month. Together with retrofitting their entire lighting system to use mostly LED’s, the solar array will provide them with about 75% of their electric needs.
Limestone Presbyterian Church was the first faith community in the First State (Delaware) to install solar panels on its property (180 panels on our sanctuary roof). Limestone’s Co-Pastor Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is a hymn writer with hymns in collections published by the Episcopal, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, Community of Christ, United Church of Canada, and has been featured three times on national PBS-TV. Attached is her solar hymn for celebrating solar energy, first used for their own dedication of solar panels and used by others since then.