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Agricola Lutheran Church Injects Faith in Other Groups With Their Solar Project

Agricola Lutheran Church Injects Faith in Other Groups With Their Solar Project

Mümtaz Derya Tarhan
The Community Power Report
June 11, 2012

Last tuesday, Agricola Lutheran Church of Toronto hosted an open house to showcase the solar photovoltaic  installation on their roof. The event was co-organized by Agricola and Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) with the aim of encouraging and facilitating the development of similar projects.

Alan Walker, a member of the Agricola Lutheran congregation, was approached in November 2010 by two other members of the congregation with the idea. Upon conducting some research, he realized that the project made very good financial sense with the help of the 20-year guaranteed feed-in-tariff (FIT) contract offered to renewable energy generators by Ontario. “We are an aging congregation with diminishing donation dollars. The income from the solar project will serve to offset the decline in attendance” said Alan Walker.

Alan Walker also noted that environmental stewardship is very valuable for their church, and that this project gave them an opportunity to transform those values into action. ”If you want to see change, you have to take action. Faith communities should lead efforts in the transition to a greener world, and not follow”, he added.

Agricola Lutheran Church (Source: Eco Alternative Energy)
Agricola Lutheran Church’s 10kW project was approved by the church board on February 2011. Subsequently, Eco Alternative Energy was hired by the church as the project developer. 

The project cost a total of $85,000, which was paid for by a late congregation member’s donation. The solar system went live in early December 2011, and the church received its first FIT cheque from the government in March 2012.

The system is expected to generate between $12,000 – $13,200 per year and is expected to pay itself back in 7 years. With a 20-year FIT contract, this means 13 years of net financial benefit for the church. 

Eco Alternative Energy’s President, Derek Wilson, was also present at the meeting and gave a presentation about the solar industry in Ontario in the light of the anticipated reduction in FIT prices. He informed participants that even under the proposed 30% reduction in FIT rates for Solar PV, investing in solar projects is still a very viable investment due to continuing reductions in system costs.and the installation was finalized last October. 

Greening Sacred Spaces – The Green Rule
The event’s co-organizer, Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) aims to assist faith communities with both the educational and spiritual dimensions of ‘greening’. As part of their work, they encourage faith-based communities to generate their own renewable energy through resources, tools, education programs and showcasing best practices. GSS is an initiative by Faith and The Common Good, which is a multi-faith and multicultural network working for the common good. The organization’s President, Ted Reeve, noted that all churches may not be as fortunate as Agricola with such generous donations; but there are other ways to raise capital for energy projects such as bond offerings, co-operative ownership models, loans and grants. He encouraged interested groups to visit GSS’ website and get in contact with them to find out more about how to go about their green power initiatives. 

Despite these tremendous opportunities, some faith-based groups may not have suitable (if any) facilities for solar panel installations. For such cases, participants were able to talk to Julie Leach from SolarShare Co-operative about investing in an existing solar energy co-operative and taking part in clean energy generation without having to install panels themselves.

In brief, this meeting had two clear messages for faith groups of all backgrounds:

The first one is by Agricola Lutheran Church: ”We have done it, and so can you.”

The other from Greening Sacred Spaces: ”We can help you do it”
Mumtaz Derya Tarhan
The Community Power Report

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