116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Installing solar panels on one of the hottest days of the year wasn’t the goal, but as CB Solar workers attached the large black panels to the roof of the Peoples Church in Cedar Rapids last week church member Rich Patterson pointed out scorching summer days may become more frequent because of climate change.
The Unitarian Universalist church, which has about 120 members, raised $21,000 to install solar panels as a way to save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which trap and hold heat in the atmosphere.
“They fit our earth stewardship mission,” said Patterson of Cedar Rapids. “Churches of many denominations have a similar mission, and we hope they will consider solar.”
CB Solar, based in Des Moines, has installed nearly 700 solar systems, ranging from single panels to power a road sign to multi-acre systems, said Matt Edwards, controller for CB Solar. The company has installed solar panels for many nonprofit groups, but the Peoples Church is one of the first churches.
Edwards anticipates it will take nine years for the church’s lower energy bills to pay off the initial cost of the installation. The first-year savings are expected to be more than $2,400, he said.
“The church now owns its power instead of renting it as they are paying that $2,400 a year either way, whether it's to the utility company or to own a solar array,” Edwards said.
Each dollar the church saves in energy costs allows members to spend more on other projects, such as social justice efforts or music ministry, Patterson said.
Before installing the solar panels, the church replaced lights and HVAC systems to be more efficient. It also added occupancy sensors to reduce waste.
“It makes no economic sense to use solar to power inefficient items,” Patterson said.
The Aug. 10 derecho damaged the roof, so that was replaced before the solar installation.
One of the seven principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association is “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” Marion Patterson, president of the church’s board of trustees said the solar project helps the church “live its values.”
“It is a forward thinking and behaving project. Efficiency, creates jobs, easier on the environment,” she said.
For residents or nonprofit leaders who want to learn more about whether a solar installation would work for their building, Grow Solar Linn + Johnson counties, an educational and group-purchasing program, has free information sessions. The meetings focus on the basics of solar, financial implications for the property and how the Grow Solar Linn + Johnson Counties program works.
Upcoming sessions are Aug. 9, 17 and 24 on Zoom. Register online at https://www.growsolar.org/linn-johnson-counties/.
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