Community-Funded Solar Installation

By Gary K. Smith and Community United Church of Christ Justice in a Changing Climate Task Force.

 In October of 2015 Community United Church of Christ (CUCC), 814 Dixie Trail, Raleigh, installed 28 SunPower 327 watt Crystalline PV Modules.  The installation of this 9.2 kW array was done by Baker Renewable energy.

We installed the array to decrease our fossil fuel consumption because the earth is overheating due to humanity’s fossil fuel use.  This global warming is leading to higher ocean temperatures, loss of farming, pole-ward migration of ocean and land species, desertification, more extreme weather events, hurricanes and typhoons, snow storms, elevated sea levels, homelessness, emigration, decreased ocean pH, loss of fisheries among other effects.  The biggest human impact of the climate change is on the poor, and as Christians, we’re called to help the poor and care for the earth.  So we all must find ways to decrease our fossil fuel use

CUCC became concerned with climate change in 2007 and formed the Justice in a Changing Climate Task Force.  Our plans have been to act, engage the congregation, and work with the community to seek to decrease climate change and its impact on those with fewer resources.

From 2012 to 2014, we researched the value and feasibility of installing solar on our church.  Throughout our research we had heard from neighbors and friends who wanted to do something to combat climate change, but who were not able to install solar at their homes or afford an entire array.  They became interested in contributing to our project as an alternative means of supporting solar energy, and in many cases, receiving tax benefits as well.  Final purchase of the array was made possible through donations from church members as well as supporters from the wider community.   In fact, two thirds of the donors came from beyond CUCC!   By mid-April 2015 we raised >$38.5000, >$1,500 than we needed!   This excess enabled us to provide financial help to four other church and non-profit solar installations in our state.

The first two years of CUCC solar electricity production have been a big success!  Nearly half (47%) of our Main Building’s electric power came from solar for these two years.   The panels have generated over 18 megawatt hours of solar electricity, and they have kept over 14 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, equal to not burning 1400 gal of gas or 7 tons of coal, or not driving 30,000 mi!  In addition, we saved almost $2000 on our electricity bills, and this is being used for our ministries.

We thank God for leading us and we thank all of donors and volunteers for making this blessing possible.

In 2017, the NC Legislature passed a bill known as HB589 into law.  This law provides new ways for individuals, non-profits and small businesses to afford to install solar.  The law provides rebates, leasing and community solar opportunities that may make solar attainable for many people left out in the past.  If you are interested in solar, speak with your local solar installers for details.