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Park United Methodist Church Goes Solar

Park United Methodist Church Goes Solar

Park UM Church goes solar with rooftop panels

Solar panels have been installed on the roof of Park United Methodist Church by a Wisconsin company. Church officials said the panels will provide electricity for the church and are the ecological equivalent of planting 456 trees.

The Broad Street house of worship is possibly the second Bloomfield church to undergo the conversion. The Brookdale Reformed Church last year became what is believed to be the first Bloomfield church to go solar when its roof panels were installed.

The installation at Park UMC began this past November and took a month. The project was managed by a church trustee, Christine Singer. In a telephone interview last week, Singer said she has been working in the field of renewable energy for more than 20 years.

About 18 months ago, she said she began researching the possibility of installing solar panels on the church roof and looked for the right company with which to work. Her church, she said, has always been environmentally aware. But nonprofits were ineligible for government funding of renewable energy projects, she said. The church selected Sunvest Solar, in Wisconsin.

“They would finance us as a nonprofit,” Singer said. “They own the solar system and we’re allowing them to use our roof. We’ll pay our monthly electric bill to SunVest Solar.”

The agreement the church has with the company is for 20 years. The company installs, owns, repairs and replaces the panels. Singer said the company did everything.

“They filed the paperwork with PSE&G and the town,” she said.
The solar panels on the church roof are being financed through a state program that promotes solar energy, according to Adam Taylor, the northeast project developer for SunVest and a West Orange native.

According to Taylor, in return for annually producing a single megawatt hour of electricity for the church, the state gives SunVest a renewable energy certificate, or REC. Since the form of renewable energy is solar, this certificate is called a SREC. These certificates went to PSE&G which in return provided SunVest with funding. Taylor said the state requires utility companies to acquire these certificates as evidence that they are promoting renewable energy.

“In the long run, every utility has to acquire a certain number of these SRECs,” he said.

According to Taylor, the Park UMC solar panels produces 35 megawatt hours per year.
“For a church, that’s a good amount,” Taylor said, “but not on the grand scale.”
Other churches in the area where his company has made solar installations are St. Matthew’s, in Secaucus; and St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, both on Long Island, NY.

“We’re willing to work with churches,” he said. “A lot of other companies won’t. It may not be profitable. Not a lot of companies will finance like this. And it’s too expensive for churches to do this independently.”
Singer agrees.

“Without the RECs, the cost of energy would be too high,” she said. “We had 90 panels installed. They cannot be seen from the street. They supply about 80 percent of the electricity to the church. We will save a little bit of money over time”

The savings will be about $25 per month.
“Over 20 years, it will add up,” Singer said. “And over time we’ll save more. The kilowatt hour cost is set for the next 20 years.”
While lower electrical costs are important, Singer said this was not the primary reason for the panels.

“It’s the stewardship of the planet — God’s creation,” she said. “That was what was driving us.”

Park UMC Pastor Joel Hubbard said the panels are a means for the church to practice a faithful and wise stewardship of a creation provided by God.
“For us, developing sustainable, solar energy is a spiritual practice,” he said.
By relying on the sun and not carbon monoxide-producing fossil fuels to generate electricity, Singer said the 90 panels on the church roof have the same impact on the environment as would the planting of 456 trees. This is the number of trees, she said, that would have been needed to absorb the carbon monoxide if fossil fuels were used instead of solar panels.

Solar Power Coming to Delran Schools

Delran Schools kick off energy efficiency project

Pictured (from left to right): Bryan Brotschul, Superintendent Delran Township School District; Daniel Riggle, Schneider Electric; Tom Jackson, Vice President Delran Board of Education; Rob Porreca, Delran Board of Education; Glenn Kitley, President Delran Board of Education; Chris Russo, Business Administrator Delran Township School District (holding scissors); Amy Rafanello, Mary Melvin, Chris Oberg and Melanie Goodwin-Ogozalek, all from Delran Board of Education; Ian Palmer, New Energy Equity; Shannon Croly, Student Representative; Ken Long, Pennoni Engineering; and Adam Taylor, SunVest Solar Inc. (Submitted photo)

Pictured (from left to right): Bryan Brotschul, Superintendent Delran Township School District; Daniel Riggle, Schneider Electric; Tom Jackson, Vice President Delran Board of Education; Rob Porreca, Delran Board of Education; Glenn Kitley, President Delran Board of Education; Chris Russo, Business Administrator Delran Township School District (holding scissors); Amy Rafanello, Mary Melvin, Chris Oberg and Melanie Goodwin-Ogozalek, all from Delran Board of Education; Ian Palmer, New Energy Equity; Shannon Croly, Student Representative; Ken Long, Pennoni Engineering; and Adam Taylor, SunVest Solar Inc. (Submitted photo)

Delran Schools kick off energy efficiency project

The 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award winning Delran Township School District and Schneider Electric held a ribbon-cutting celebration at Delran High School to recognize the start of construction for a district-wide energy efficiency project on Dec. 12. As part of the event, Superintendent Brian Brotschul and Business Administrator Chris Russo, provided remarks on the project’s positive environmental and economic impact for the district.The Delran Township School District is implementing a $4.5 million capital improvement project through an energy savings improvement program (ESIP) which uses projected energy savings to fund efficiency upgrades and to enhance learning environments caused by outdated control systems and poor insulation. The project will consist of more than a dozen energy conservation measures including new air conditioning units, improved lighting and roof-top solar panels at the district’s four schools that will produce 75 percent of the district’s electricity. In addition, students will have access to hands-on learning about energy efficiency through kiosks and dashboards that will display energy usage information.

The project will reduce the district’s utility bill by 32 percent, which equals nearly $285,000 per year. The district also expects to secure $325,000 in anticipated rebates and incentives from the N.J. Clean Energy Program and the PJM Energy Efficiency Credit.

Additionally, the Delran Township School District was recently awarded the 2016 New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in the Clean Air category as a result of its partnership with Schneider Electric. The award recognizes significant contributions to environmental protection throughout the state of New Jersey.

Solar Power Helps Couple Cut Power Bill

Oct. 6 was a big day in the Wilkinson household.

That’s the day Dave and Colleen Wilkinson had their home commissioned as a production station for electrical power in the state.

It came as a result of the Wilkinsons installing 16 solar panels on the south-facing portion of their home’s roof at 9304 60th Place.

They were able to be part of a group buy-in with SOLARacine earlier this year.

The Wilkinsons had been talking about going solar for years and made the leap this summer.

“I was worried that the technology hadn’t come far enough to make this financially viable,” Colleen said. “But I also realized it was a good deal to take advantage of, and we probably wouldn’t see another one come along like this. We thought about it quite a bit, and in the end decided it was the right thing to do.”

The Wilkinsons are cutting-edge green when it comes to their lifestyle. They use rain barrel water storage to water their vegetable garden and drive a gasoline/electric hybrid Toyota Prius. They installed a geothermal system to heat and cool their 1,700-square-foot home in 2011.

They use no natural gas or propane. They cook, heat water, run the clothes dryer, power a fan to push air through the heating and cooling vents all with electricity.

The solar power installation was just the next step in making the Wilkinson home more energy cost efficient.

Project gets the green light

They hired Sunvest Solar Inc. of Pewaukee as their contractor for the project.

At the end of June, the company assessed the structure, roof pitch, lack of trees and south-facing roof for suitability. The weight of the solar system wasn’t an issue on their standard roof.

No other rewiring or electrical panel upgrades were needed.

The panels, which face the street side of the home, will increase the value and ease of sale of the property in the future, the Wilkinsons said.

Seeing the savings

The savings are already reflected in their utility bill.

In October 2015, they paid a $103 We Energies bill for 18.3 kilowatt hours on an average day. This October — or the last three weeks of it — the electric bill was a mere $35 for 7.3 kilowatt hours on an average day.

And in the future, they will be producing more electricity than they can use, so they’ll get credits on the their electric bills in the early summer months, when there are longer hours of sunlight.

Although they’ll never get a check from We Energies for their home power production, credits will roll over into the fall and winter to offset their electric bill, Colleen said.

“More or less, we are a production station. There’s no battery in our house. We’re not storing electricity. We’re a remote location that’s producing energy for the state of Wisconsin,” she said.

The full impact of the dwindling light will come on the winter solstice, Dec. 21.

“This is a hard time of the year to assess this because the daylight is continuing to wane. I think it’s fascinating that we are making as much electricity as we are,” Colleen said. “It will be very interesting to compare October to May of next year.”

Installation costs an investment

There was a hefty initial investment of about $13,000 before rebates and tax credits. The final first year investment after the incentives roll in will be $7,577.

Depending on the electricity costs in the future, the Wilkinsons believe payback on the system will come in seven to 10 years. If the rates go up, the payback will be quicker.

“It’s an investment, but I think (other people should do this). Each and every time more people do this, it’s not just an environmental saver, it’s a money saver,” Dave said. “You have an initial payback period, but after that you’re creating energy at no cost.”

Will the Wilkinsons worry if hail pelts their solar panels?

“Only if the hail is grapefruit-sized, but that would do roof damage, not just solar panel damage,” Dave said, adding that such an event would be covered by insurance.

He noted that his insurance rates hadn’t risen with the installation of the panels.

In another improvement, the couple installed two Solatubes to light the home’s kitchen and laundry room.

“It’s more of a new kind of skylight,” Colleen said. “It’s magnified and doesn’t go to the ceilings, so we don’t lose heat energy or cooling energy.”


Report: WI Renewable Energy Presents Economic Opportunity

March 11, 2015

MADISON, Wis. – Solar- and wind-energy companies account for a lot of jobs and economic activity in Wisconsin, according to a new report that says the state has huge growth potential in renewable energy.

Renewables are a big part of the state’s economy, said Andy Olsen, senior policy adviser at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which released the report.

“There’s over 6,800 jobs from wind and solar companies alone, in addition to other renewable technologies, and over 500 companies profiting from renewable-energy growth,” he said. “So, there’s great economic opportunity here, especially for a state like Wisconsin with a strong manufacturing base. And what our report showed is that a lot of small businesses have benefited from renewable-energy growth.”

He pointed to advantages such as the state’s top university system and research institutes that have helped to develop new technologies and find new ways for them to succeed in the marketplace. The report also cited Wisconsin’s central location in the United States as a benefit for the state’s renewable-energy companies.

The report made the point that renewable energy is Wisconsin’s only domestic energy source; no others are produced in the Badger State. Although the state has made major strides in renewable energy, it said Wisconsin recently has begun to fall behind in terms of wind and solar development.

Matt Neumann, president of the Pewaukee-based solar energy firm SunVest Co., echoed that warning and said the state is at an important crossroads.

“The opportunity is being capitalized on by other states throughout the country, and we have to make a choice of whether or not we’re going to stick with a 20th-century energy portfolio or whether we’re going to move into the 21st century,” he said. “If we as a state are serious about job creation, we’d better get serious about supporting innovation and technology related to the energy sector.”

The report is online at elpc.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service – WI


Wis. farmers turn to solar power

Posted: Jan 24, 2015 7:22 PM CST
By Kaitlyn Riley

Spring Valley (WQOW) – Hundreds of farmers are visiting Eau Claire this weekend for the 84th Annual Wisconsin Farmer’s Union Convention. One of this year’s major topics is using solar energy in agriculture.

Spring Valley Farmer Joseph Bacon first started turning sunshine into savings in 2009.

“We wanted to get into solar just because we wanted to feel like we were a green business, so by doing this, we help the electric co-op and ourselves become more energy independent.”

“I think solar is critical for the economic viability of agriculture going forward because we need to find a better distributed system of electricity,” Wisconsin Farmers Union Special Projects Coordinator Sarah Lloyd says.

But cost is often a big factor. To help foot the bill, Bacon applied for solar energy grants. They paid for half of the $80,000 dollar project. But many are paying even less today.

“If you were to build our system today, you could build our system with less than what our share of the grant was less than half,” Bacon says.

John Daugherty with Sunvest Solar Inc. says panel prices have dropped 80% in the last five years with an increase in panel production. But he think that’s about as good as the prices will get.

“We’re not going to see anything like that again,” Daugherty says. “It already happened. Now is a good time. It’s going to continue to be a good time.”

But for Bacon, the project seems to be paying off. He says they only pay for electricity in November and December, and even get money for the extra electricity they produce.

“You really come to appreciate the sun when you are making electricity because when there is no sun, you are not making any,” Bacon says.

His solar electricity does everything from heating his cows’ water in the winter. To giving his car enough energy to drive 20 miles without gasoline.

Bacon says his heating bills in the winter months usually come to about $200. Less than 1% of Wisconsin’s energy is produced by solar power. The Wisconsin Farmer’s Union is pushing state policy that allows more agricultural use of solar energy.