At approximately 2:00 P.M. on June 21, 2016 the installation was completed, and 78 solar panels at Union Church went live! They are now generating what is expected to be at least 25% of the electricity that Union Church uses in a year’s time. Soon there will be a public display at church showing how much electricity is generated by the panels and how much is used by the church at various times of day, but for now you can click here for a LIVE view:
You can also always find the page on the main menu bar of this website. Look for “Solar Meter” in the title bar!
In May’s Consider the Properties Board described how the church has cut back on energy use, both electric and natural gas. If you didn’t get the chance to read that, here is a link:
This is important because it is generally less expensive and more useful to lower energy consumption before adding renewable energy. In summary we have lowered the church’s total energy use by over 50% in the last eight years and are now ready to add a source of renewable energy. For us, solar is the most practical.
The Properties Board, led by Steve Boyce, has worked on project planning over the last year, and in March the congregation approved funding involving $25,000 from anonymous donors and a $36,000 loan from a church source called the Hutchins Fund.
The solar project was inspired by many of the values embedded in our Mission Statement, particularly the section titled “Extravagant Care & Generosity in our Stewardship:”
“We will boldly and creatively embody the life and ministry of Jesus with extravagant generosity and care in the stewardship of the gifts we have been given. We will offer and organize our time, talent, and treasure in loving service and outreach with useful facilities and supportive staff and programs, striving always to be agents of God’s inclusive love. With care and diligence we will seek the well-being of our community, of all of our volunteers and staff, and of God’s earth in all that we undertake alone and together.”
From an earth justice perspective it is worth noting that Kentucky currently generates more than 93% of its electricity by burning coal. Solar rather than coal generation for Union Church electricity will make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation and creation care concerns along with many other environmental and public health issues resulting from Kentucky’s coal life cycle (i.e., destruction and pollution from extraction, transportation, burning and ash disposal).
Also, this project has provided a good example of (and possibly some inspiration regarding) the way local initiative can arise to help address global issues when state and national initiative is lacking.
What’s next? The plan is to gradually reimburse the Hutchins Fund through a combination of savings on electricity generated by the solar panels and further donations from the congregation. It is important to restock the Hutchins Fund so that it is available, as intended, for big ticket maintenance and project needs in the future.
How can you help? We have already had one family contribute more than $800 toward the project. One way to look at it is that each panel’s installed cost (There are 78 of them!) is about $750.
If you would like to help by covering some or all of the cost of a panel, you can make such a donation to Union Church. If you do so, please be sure to make clear that it is your intention to contribute to the “solar project.”