Woodlawn United’s journey toward sustainability is literally paying off. The Dartmouth, N.S., church installed 140 solar panels in September 2018 with the goal of generating enough energy to power the entire building, which usually costs around $9,000 a year. By the end of 2019, the panels succeeded — and Nova Scotia Power even owed the church money.
Woodlawn installed the cross-shaped panels with the aid of a $30,000 grant from Faithful Footprints, a United Church grant program that helps congregations retrofit and upgrade their buildings to become more energy efficient. Churches need to match the funding they receive from the program, so Woodlawn’s sustainability committee devised a plan.
Congregation members were asked to sponsor a solar panel of their choice — $500 for the regular panels or $1,000 for panels inside the cross. Barry Zwicker, head of the sustainability committee, says that by the end of the day, they had commitments for $25,000. It took only another week to raise the full amount and more. The extra money was put toward paying off a loan from the municipality of Halifax, which funded the rest of the $140,000 project.
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Since word of their success got out, Zwicker has fielded calls from more than a dozen churches seeking advice on how to install their own panels. He is happy to help. “We can send you to the right people, and we can help you evaluate what they come back with,” he says.
Zwicker encourages other congregations looking for ways to cut long-term costs to consider investing in solar panels, and says there’s virtually no upkeep needed once they’re installed. And be loud about your move to sustainable energy, he says. “Don’t be shy about telling other people about it. The more churches hear about it, that it isn’t something to be afraid of…more and more will be able to take advantage of it.”
This story first appeared in Broadview’s May 2020 issue with the title “This United church is an energy powerhouse.”
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