GREENSBORO — Three big solar arrays atop the sanctuary and parish hall at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church caught the morning sun Tuesday as workers put the finishing touches on the power system.
If the numbers work out right, church treasurer Chris Berger said, they will supply enough power to cover up to 80% of the church’s needs.
They also present an opportunity to be good stewards.
“We have to think about what type of example we want to set for the next generation,” Berger said. “It’s easy to talk about that, but it’s a completely different story when you want to walk the walk. And we felt very strongly as a congregation that it was important to do that.”
Workers began installing the panels two weeks ago, and were getting close on Tuesday to wrapping up the project.
“We’ve just got to run wires down to our inverters, which convert DC electricity from the sun to AC,” said Dylan Sirry, a crew lead for Eagle Solar & Light, the contractor handling the installation. “An inspector has to come up here to make sure we did everything up to code, and once the inspector passes us, Duke comes out here, usually seven to 14 days after, to swap the meter.”
Berger said the idea to install solar panels came about roughly a year ago.
“As a church, we were having more demands on our facilities, from groups within the church, as well as outside organizations who wanted to use our facilities for meetings,” he said. “I was noticing that our utility costs were beginning to go up. Part of our mission is outreach, so we thought about how to continue to be able to do that, while controlling our costs.”
The church began discussions with Duke Energy last spring and got an application approved in August. From there, engineers came and walked the roofline to figure out the optimal spots for the panels.
The biggest array, on the roof of the sanctuary facing west, measures roughly 40 feet by 40 feet. The others measure 30 feet by 20 feet, and 11 feet by 53 feet.
Berger said the project cost about $95,000. It was paid for in part with a grant from the local Episcopal Diocese. The church also expects to receive a credit from Duke Energy.
For the past two months, as the country has gone into lockdown because of the COVID-19 crisis, the church has been holding services online, and many of the organizations (such as counseling groups, fitness classes and the Girl Scouts) that use the church’s meeting spaces, have also been hosting gatherings virtually. The Rev. Ginny Inman said the church is looking at possibly hosting in-person services again around July 1, and said she sees the panels as part of a rebirth.
“I think part of our biblical call is to care for creation,” Inman said. “This decreases our carbon footprint. And we want to be a leader in thinking about new ways to care for our community. This is one way to think about the future, and what it means to reach out and love.”