Sunday April 3 was a beautiful day, a perfect day for a Solarbration. The sun was shining. The trees were budding, and there was music in the air.
Rev. Joe Hoffman, a member of the Council’s Governing Board, and Pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville has often said that Richard (me) pestered him so much that he didn’t have much of a choice about putting solar panels on his church roof.
But, truth be told, Joe didn’t need much convincing. He was on board from the first time I talked to about solar panels in 2007. Four years later, with a committed earth team and the help of Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy(AIRE), a group of investors from the church installed a 9.6 KW solar array in February, and dedicated the panels on Sunday’s Solarbration Ceremony.
Members of the community celebrated with food, drink and music. As you might expect we sang Let the Sunshine In and Here Comes the Sun. You can read Joe’s dedication liturgy here.
Stan Corwin, the member of the congregation’s Earth Team told the story of how the project came together. A Limited Liability Corporation was formed. Shares were sold, and the investors will sell or donate the panels to the church after 5-6 years. The church can then expect 40-50 more years of use and an income of $2000 per year that will grow as costs of energy increase in the future. Moreover, the total energy saved will be about the same as used by two average sized homes, displacing hundreds of tons of dirty coal.
I had been trying to get congregations to take advantage of North Carolina’s very generous tax credit incentives since 2007, but when the federal tax incentives kicked in, it became much easier to for congregations to seriously consider doing a renewable energy project. In fact, there are so many options that we, North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light (NC IPL) felt it necessary to develop a formal policy about renewable energy, so we are not advocating or supporting just one model.
NC IPL believes that it is important for congregations to be leaders in their communities by installing solar systems, and we are committed to helping forge this precedent-setting path forward. The project at First Congregational was just the beginning.
Seeing solar panels on a house of worship becomes an iconic marker to the broader community, a demonstration of the congregation’s love of the Creator and creation, and it shows a commitment to change our relationship to energy, especially fossil fuel use. It becomes a moral statement, a rejection of our use of fossil fuels and the implications of damages that such use brings to all in our shared earth community, expressing a clear commitment that the broader human community cannot ignore.
We hope that one day you too can envision a Solarbration in your congregation and that Rev. Hoffman’s liturgy inspires you to engage more deeply in creation care.
–Richard Fireman, Public Policy Coordinator, NC IPL