When he peeks outside to check the weather, Don Zimmer may be seeing numbers as well as the forecast. “On the two days this week where we had good sun, we offset 77% and 73%,” he reported to his congregation in Maryland. His article describes two moves that advantageously shifted how the congregation uses energy.
by Don Zimmer
Peace Lutheran Church in Waldorf has gone solar. We are now able to use the electrical energy generated from the 252 solar panels on our roof to help us meet the needs of our ministries to the community.
The system is owned, operated, and maintained by one of the largest solar energy companies in the country. We purchase the electricity the system produces from them through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Under this type of agreement, the solar energy company uses those 252 panels to produce electricity, which Peace then buys back from them in accordance an established pricing schedule that is anticipated to be less than that charged by our local utility, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO). The solar company bears all costs associated with installation, operation, and maintenance of the system for 20 years, so there is no out-of-pocket expense for Peace. The system is designed to produce up to 70.56 DC kW. Because of the instrumentation installed in conjunction with the solar system, Peace is now able to measure in near real time its total power production and power usage and develop ways to be more efficient.
Peace has also recently been able to take advantage of a Maryland conservation initiative called the EmPOWER Maryland to fully convert to longer lasting lower energy requiring LED lighting. Through this program, local contractors are able to retrofit LED lighting in Maryland businesses and churches at little or no cost to the organization. The program is managed by locally by SMECO. EmPOWER Maryland is funded through a usage-based surcharge on all Maryland electrical consumers.
Taken together these two initiatives allow Peace to reduce its dependency on coal and natural gas based energy sources, reduce the amount of money we pay for electrical energy, and better manage our total power consumption.