In 2018, Our Lady Queen of Peace, a Catholic church in Arlington, VA arranged with Ipsun Power, a solar energy contractor, based in Northern Virginia, to install solar to provide clean energy for the building.
Ipsun is outfitting the roof of the Rectory as well as those of the Church and Father Ray Hall with state-of-the-art solar panels. These buildings were selected because their roofs are either new (rectory), very new (Father Ray Hall) or with guarantees that will outlast the 25 year expected life time of the solar panels (Church). The project will use 154 panels in all, with a generating capacity 95.2 kiloWatt hours. That’s equivalent to approximately 15 average residential solar panel installations in our area.
The church decided to try to get as much of its energy as possible from a clean, renewable source, prompted partly by Pope Francis’ encyclical on the current climate and environmental crisis Laudato Si. A recently released U.N. report found that few nations are on track to meet the 2015 Paris Climate Accord targets. Also recently, the US Government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment warned that some of the most devastating effects of global warming will hit harder and sooner than previously expected and are likely to reach a tipping point without “far-reaching and unprecedented changes” to cut emissions within the next 12 years. Now is the time when those who feel called to make a change to take actions that have a real impact.
Solar will generate 43% of the energy used in these three buildings. Over its 25-year lifetime, the solar energy system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an amount equivalent to taking 195 cars off the road or planting 31,000 trees.
The church Board sought a creative funding approach that will provide a positive cash flow to the parish. Two elements make this work: (1) There is an investor committed to front the $233,000 cost of the project, while benefiting from the federal 30% tax credit and future depreciation allowances. (2) The church is establishing a Power Purchase Agreement with Dominion Power, our electric company, that will pay $0.15 per kiloWatt produced (30% more than what they presently pay for electricity).
From these proceeds, Our Lady Queen of Peace will compensate the investor and gain about $3,000 unrestricted funds for its operating budget; these revenues are expected to increase over the years as electricity prices rise. This project proves that the economics of solar are excellent for all kinds of customers, and churches can go solar in Virginia.
Solar works wherever energy users are open to new partnerships and innovative strategies. Where there’s will to go solar, there’s most likely an affordable and beneficial way!