The congregation of Bethany Christian Reformed Church in Gallup, N.M., is ready to harness energy for their church building from a strong New Mexico resource—the sun. This fall, the people of Bethany CRC watched as a local company constructed an 1,800-foot solar carport with 100 solar panels in their church parking lot. The solar energy collected from the panels will provide all the electrical needs for the church building.
Rick Kruis, member of Bethany CRC and leader in the Christian Reformed Office of Social Justice Climate Witness Project said, “[Global warming] is quite possibly caused by human activity. We should do something about it because it affects the most vulnerable—the poor. Even if it is not caused by human activity we should not sit around and wait.” Kruis has networked with area churches to create energy savings projects and has formed “a green team” at his church.
The carport project was initiated by this team and funded by investors within the church who would receive a 30 percent tax credit the first year. “[It is] structured to allow investors to earn slightly more than initial investment while also benefiting the church in the short term,” said Kruis.
The investor team will sell the solar energy back to the church, in the first several years, at a fixed cost of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, until the system has paid for itself. With those costs less than the current utility rate, the church will save approximately $10,390 over 8 years. After that, for the 25-year lifespan of the sytem, the church will have its energy supplied at no cost, saving about $172,000 over time. The church's carbon output will also be reduced, eliminating approximately 944 tons of carbon dioxide over the life of the system.
Bethany chose a solar carport because they didn’t have the space for a ground-mounted solar panel, and the church’s flat-roof construction made rooftop panels impractical. There are added benefits for having a carport: “It provides shaded parking and shade for our day care center,” Kruis said.
The structure is now complete. The next task is to make the electrical connection, which will be finished over the next month. “I have enjoyed seeing it actually happen. We started working on this in May of 2016 and it should be finished before the end of November,” Kruis said.
A few other CRCs have added solar panels to their properties to offset electricity costs or, in some cases, to supply energy to regional markets. The Banner has previously written about Jubilee Fellowship CRC’s project in St. Catharines, Ont., and Ann Arbor (Mich.) Campus Chapel’s project.