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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Red Bank UMC Operates on Green Faith: New roof, additional insulation and 205 solar panels power church

Red Bank UMC Operates on Green Faith: New roof, additional insulation and 205 solar panels power church

By Kristen Dalton
The Hub

An article describing the solar power project at Red Bank United Methodist Church, a participant in the GreenFaith Certification Program.

Red Bank UMC Operates on Green Faith: New roof, additional insulation and 205 solar panels power church

A solar array on the roof of Red Bank UMC

 

The United Methodist Church of Red Bank installed 205 solar panels as part of its Green Faith initiative and officially began operating on green energy on Nov. 30, 2010. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN WALRADT The United Methodist Church of Red Bank installed 205 solar panels as part of its Green Faith initiative and officially began operating on green energy on Nov. 30, 2010. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN WALRADT RED BANK — They’re calling it green faith. After more than one year of operating on 205 panels of solar power, the United Methodist Church of Red Bank produced a self-sustaining 57,000 kilowatt hours of energy, said John Walradt, property committee chairman of the church.

The $300,000 solar power project coincided with a three-year capital fund campaign that replaced 30 percent of the roofing and 23 windows as well as added insulation to keep in heat, saving the church $7,000 on its natural gas bill.

“It’s a thing that helps the church shortterm by giving it a slightly more stable expense that they can budget for electricity, but in the long term it’s a huge benefit of really lowering the cost. So that’s what we did. It worked out fine,” said Walradt in an interview on Feb. 17.

The solar panel project took two months to install, and power was officially turned on Nov. 30, 2010. But the property chairman said it was the decision-making process that took more than a year and involved nearly everyone in the church.

“The property committee reports to the board of trustees, which is the legal contract signing body of the church. The alternative governing body is the church council, so there are about 30 people involved,” explained Walradt.

“Then we put it to a vote with the full church membership and the capital fund campaign, likewise, was presented to the membership, and we communicated everything we expected to do and how much it was going to cost, how long it was going to take and what the benefits were going to be.”

Walradt, who lives in Holmdel and recently put solar panels on his home, said the church vote was a landslide in favor of the project but that it was also good to hear several dissenting opinions from members who didn’t feel the church should commit to such a large-scale project.

“I think any organization has some people who are less progressive perhaps and are skeptical, and what that does is not so much a bad thing, but it keeps the rest of us on our toes, making sure that our information is accurate and that we’re doing the best job we can to cover all our bases,” said Walradt.

The property committee investigated borrowing money from the bank or thirdparty financing arrangements such as a power purchase agreement, where another party puts up the funds and gets paid for the power.

“The problem with all of those things is that somebody else is making the profit and taking advantage of the incentives,” he said.

According to Walradt, because the church is a nonprofit, it could not qualify for many state and federal incentives but it was able to register and receive benefits through the New Jersey Clean Energy Program (NJCEP).

“We then realized that since the church is a nonprofit organization, we could not get the government incentives anyway. So George Schildge and I got together seven investors in the church who put up some of their early retirement savings. We raised the $300,000, offering to pay them interest on the money,” he said.

“The idea is by selling the power back to the church at a 10 percent discount from what they were currently paying, and selling the solar renewable energy certificates, that we could invest the state’s system of incentives for solar and alternative energy sources.”

The church’s solar project earns Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) through the NJCEP. The certificates represent all of the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar energy project and can be sold or traded separately from the power, according to the NJCEP website.

An SREC is earned every time a solar installation generates 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity.

According to Walradt, after the investors are paid back, the church would own the system and get all of the power for free. Additionally, if there were any money left from SRECs, the church would also get that income.

This isn’t the first time the UMC has sought solar energy. About five years ago several church members investigated making the switch to green energy but found costs too expensive to handle.

The green faith initiative got its second wind when heat and electricity bills were running high. The solar panels were installed on the top and parts of the rear sloping roof.

“Unless you know about it, the average person sitting in the pew would know nothing except what they’ve been told, because they’re [solar panels] not visible except a few panels on the backside of the church. So they’re out of sight, out of mind, just pumping power out,” said Walradt.

“In any case, we think we did good. You know, some things don’t work out quite the way you hoped, but this one did.”

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