Methodist Church Goes Solar in North Carolina
On June 15 members of the Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina will come together to celebrate. No, they’re not celebrating some obscure Christian holiday or Father’s Day (although their celebration will be honoring the Father in a way). They’re coming together to dedicate the church’s new solar array — an installation that promises to be as great for creation as it for the church’s coffers.
Set in 21 rows across the church’s Bradley Hall, the 136 panels are in full sun all day and generate about 46 kW. Even the thin shadow from the church steeple barely touches them. Eventually, they will provide about 15 percent of the church’s electricity. But for now, Duke Energy is getting the power.
“Unfortunately, our power monopoly has written the laws so that you cannot compete with them,” Tom Lamb Facilities Manager at Highland United Methodist Church told us.
Normally, the church would be exempt from Duke Energy’s regulations. But the church wasn’t able to afford to install the solar panels on its own. Instead, it found church members with a passive income tax portfolio who could use the solar tax credits and then gift the system to the church after using the credits in years five or six. The nine members came together to form Highland Solar, LLC. To comply with North Carolina’s laws they must sell the power to Duke Energy for five years, and after that, they can give the panels to the church, which can then directly use the energy they produce.
“Between the power generated and sold, the tax credits, and the gifting the system to the church we hope that our LLC investors recoup their money,” said Lamb. “We don’t expect they will make a dime or lose much. This model does require a sympathetic investor.”
But sympathetic investors do not seem hard to find at Highland United Methodist Church. The church is known for its green initiatives: a community garden that grows over 2,000 pounds of produce each year, energy-saving lights, and low-flush toilets. And now the solar array demonstrates the church’s continued commitment to protecting creation. Despite the costs of installing solar, the church figured out a creative way to make it all work.
“We would love to be a resource and model to other churches looking to make wise longer term decisions to be better stewards of that which has been entrusted to us,” said Lamb. He recommends that churches start green committees, like the one at First Church of Berkeley, that look at ways to cut utility costs and reduce energy consumption.
On June 15, members of the church really will have something to celebrate. They are celebrating their commitment to protecting future generations of church members from air pollution, water pollution, water depletion, and climate change. They are celebrating the divine gift of being able to receive energy from the sun. And, because they were smart, they were able to do it in a way that will hopefully be as good for the church’s coffers as it will be for creation.
News Source: The Christian Post
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