Monday, April 02, 2007

Let the Sun Shine In--Maybe

This morning the chair of our Properties Committee and I met with a rep from this company to start a coversation about the possibilty of installing solar panels on the roof of the church.

Have any of your churches "gone solar"? Could you share experiences, caveats, warnings, success stories and ideas for financing such an effort?

7 comments:

Teri said...

that would be really cool!

Unfortunately, here in the midwest we don't get enough sun to make it efficient, I don't think. Six months of the year (or at least it feels that way) are not just cloudy, but dark and cloudy. I know I read somewhere that solar power can work when it's cloudy...but for that much time? I'm skeptical. We spent three of the last four days where the middle of the day was about as light as late twilight. No good.

But in SoCal, I think it would be awesome! how to pay for it...ummm...there must be a creative way. I just don't know what it is. Good luck!

PPB said...

We went solar on one of our dorms this summer, and they say it will pay for itself within 5 years....and that's in the cold, cloudy east.

cheesehead said...

A church where I used to be on staff (and a friend of yours and mine used to be HoS) put solar panels on the building that houses the fellowship hall-turned-gymnasium.

(E-mail me if you want a contact name.)

Presbyterian Gal said...

I did a bunch of research on solar panels about 3 years ago and I suspect the info is still current. I do know that the tax rebates have kicked back in but that likely does not impact a non-profit organization.

In short, here's what I recall:
- covering large areas will be really expensive. There are systems that will target specific items like appliances, or small areas and these will pay off faster.
- I believe it's law now in Calif. that all solar generators must plug into the grid. This means that when you produce more energy than you use, it is sold back to the utility and you receive a credit on your bill.
- There are battery back up systems for power failures, but they are really expensive.
-The roof tiles are not nearly as ugly as they used to be. Companies are starting to make tiles that look like regular roof tiles. Again, expensive. The big ugly panels are still the best bargain.
- The folks I talked to who have these things are all with small, appliance centric systems. And they love 'em.
- Before you make any commitment to buy, check with local building and planning commissions for any restrictions on street visuals. Have heard horror stories of folks putting something like this in, only to have to remove it because of a goofy zoning ordinance. And the contractor has no liability for this.

Mark Smith said...

My house is solar. See http://msmith.typepad.com/smithelectricco/

Feel free to ask questions.

I'll disagree with Presbyterian Gal (sorry) and say that a grid-connected system that is as large as your roof area will hold (and you can afford, and still qualifies for rebates) is the best bet. You make a huge dent your building's usage even if you don't produce 100% of your needs.

Here in NJ, the payback is about 8-10 years with the current rebates and sales of Renewable Energy Credits.

Mark Smith said...

Oh, BTW - my church's Buildings and Grounds committee just approved including solar energy in the new Capital Campaign (to be started this year).

Presbyterian Gal said...

Mark,
You're right about bigger being better over the long haul. It's the initial cost that is, perhaps, the biggest issue. If California's state rebates are, as I believe, on a tax incentive basis, that doesn't help a non-profit entity like a church save on purchase and installation costs. In Calfornia, they are very high. And I believe the only rebates currently (no pun intended) are just state and local. Just an issue to check out. If the rebates are not solely tax credits, then it may be affordable with a pay back period like New Jersey's.

Gonna check out your site. Sounds like you have the up to date info on this.