As spring returns to southern Ontario and daylight increases, the solar panels atop Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church are capturing more of the sun’s energy, which it feeds to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) as part of the microFIT (Feed-In-Tariff) contract awarded to the church in 2011.
Almost three years in, the project has been producing as expected, providing the church with the opportunity to use its location and resources to promote renewable energy and to provide income once the loan for installation costs has been paid.
“We did decide to go through the MicroFIT program to generate some revenue that would allow Jubilee to have greater discretion to do ministry and other projects,” said church council chair Andrew Regnerus.
The cost of the 10-kilowatt array was about $70,000, which the church obtained from the CRC Extension Fund. The congregation approved the plan with the projection of earning $10,000-$11,500 per year from its contract with OPA. In the first two full years, the panels generated $13,962 and $12,135.
For Jordan Beekhuis, one of three Calvin College engineering graduates from Jubilee Fellowship who headed the project, the revenue wasn’t the main driver. “We need to show by example as Christians our responsibility to be stewards of the environment and that it’s very possible to do,” he said.
To the concern that these contracts offered a premium to participants while increasing the cost of power to all Ontarians, Beekhuis is passionate in his defense of replacing the system with renewables, despite the incentive costs needed to make it possible.
“In everything we do, we need to care for the poor,” he said, “but to point out that a poor person is suffering because of the cost of power and then to use that to justify that we could be wasteful and not pay the true cost of power is absolutely irresponsible.”
He also said that a church is best poised to give back from its return on investment.
Smithville Christian High School in a neighboring community is about to begin construction on its larger FIT project of 150 kilowatts.
Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Hamilton, Ontario, operates using renewable energy as well. It is the only exclusively geothermally heated and cooled church in North America.