Longest Day Solar: national day of action.2

This post is the second in our Longest Day Solar series.  Learn more about the National Day of Action.

207826_214699188546806_5287405_nSolar Panels of Central Baptist Church, Wayne PA
During the week of April 6, 2009 Conergy of Paoli (formerly Mesa Environmental) completed installation of solar panels on the roof of the education building at Central Baptist Church (CBC) in Wayne, PA. On May 5th of that year PECO Energy, CBC’s utility, installed a sell-back meter that made the panels fully functional. When the panels are producing more energy than the church is using at that moment, the extra electricity flows onto PECO’s lines and into the energy grid and CBC gets credit for that electricity at retail rates. This is the equivalent of running the electricity meter in reverse.  Outside article about House of Worship solar options that references CBC can be found here.central baptist church, wayne rooftop solar

CBC has a history of Earth stewardship that has made a big dent in the Church’s and others’ global warming emissions footprint. This has included:

  • installing energy saving devices in its building;
  • buying wind energy from Community Energy (through PECO);
  • selling high-efficiency bulbs to congregation members; and
  • giving high-efficiency bulbs to the Bernardine Center which includes them as part of  their assistance to low-income Chester, PA.

The Ecology Mission Group (EMG) has played a major role in CBC’s Earth stewardship. The solar panels were no exception. Several members of the EMG had previously identified the roof of the education building as a good location for solar panels but it took a former Radnor physical education teacher, Marj McCone, to push the EMG to do more about climate change.

Chuck Marshall, member of the EMG and PA IPL’s board, responded to Marj’s passionate concern. He prepared and applied for an Energy Harvest grant through the PA Department of Environmental Protection. On the second try, CBC was awarded a $55,000 reimbursable grant towards the $80,447 installed cost.  A congregational vote approved installation of the panels and establishing a line of credit to repay the grant. The Center for Spiritual Justice, housed at CBC, also received a $10,000 grant for the panels from the PA Department of Economic and Community Development.

CBC’s solar panels have a capacity of 9.8 kw that supplies 25 percent of CBC’s historical electrical consumption of 40,000 kwh per year. Since their installation in May 2009 the solar panels have operated nearly continuously, generating 56,000 kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity with the exception of two snowfalls in 2010 and 2014, two weeks when a relay malfunctioned.

CBC is having discussions with a solar panel installer about placing panels on the pitched roof on the south side of the building. CBC is also exploring a subsequent stage of putting 48 more panels on the remaining space of the flat roof, also on the southern side of the building.

Pennsylvania has a renewable portfolio standard* for utilities. This means that a certain percentage of their electricity output for PA must be generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar and low-head hydroelectric (but not nuclear) energy.  If a utility like PECO does not meet that percentage requirement they are subject to a fine of $540 per 1,000 kWhs. If the utility does not own the renewable energy sources, they have to buy renewable energy credits. CBC is able to sell Solar Renewable Energy Credits or SRECs. CBC earns 1 credit for every 1,000 kWhs generated, or about 12 credits per year that CBC that are sold through a broker to utilities in several mid-Atlantic and northeastern states.

Questions about this program can be directed to Chuck Marshall at 610-647-6432 or via email.

*editor’s note: PA’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards are laughably low compared to neighboring states, and we’re having no trouble meeting them.   When our friends at the Sierra Club focused their spring 2014 lobby day on increasing those standards, we supported them with a multi-faith Service of Hope and Climate Courage.   The lobby day is past, but it’s never too late to let your elected representatives in Harrisburg (and Washington!) know that you care about climate change, and you’re looking for action to cut emissions and respond to existing and anticipated climate-worsened challenges.