'Let there be light': Solar power means church no longer pays a power bill
The Bible starts with the Book of Genesis and its Old Testament passage "Let there be light," with God proclaiming that light good.
Thanks to 140 solar panels, installed a year ago, those who worship at Dartmouth, N.S.'s Woodlawn United Church can now put a dollar figure on just how good that light was for the congregation last year.
Barry Zwicker, chair of the church's of the sustainability committee, said the solar array on the church roof generated enough electricity to keep the lights on, as well as power year-round all the stoves, fridges and every other plug-in device.
"We generated over $9,000 worth of power," he said. "We produced more power for this facility than we actually used."
In fact, the church ended the year with $131 owing from Nova Scotia Power.
"I don't know if we'll actually see a cheque, but we'll see a credit," said Zwicker. "How many times have you gotten a cheque from Nova Scotia Power in the history of your home or your business?
"I think it was a nice, positive surprise for most of the people in the congregation when we announced it.
The church paid $139,000 to install the solar panels, with a middle section in the shape of a cross.
The project was funded mainly by donations received from parishioners and local businesses, as well as a $30,000 grant from the United Church of Canada, which is encouraging congregations to reduce their carbon footprints.
Zwicker said financial support through Halifax's Solar City program also helped.
"It created an opportunity to have the project 100 per cent funded, at a relatively low interest rate, payable over a 10-year plan," he said.
Zwicker estimated the system will likely last 30 to 35 years, with little need for maintenance.
"During that time period, we will have generated and saved so much power the system will pay for itself three or four times over in that time period," he said.
Although there are only a couple of hundred regular Sunday worshippers, the church has been able to raise enough in donations to pay off the system.
"People have literally seen the light in terms of the value of it."
And that value extends to the church's call to be careful stewards of the environment.
"We're conscious of the land and we're conscious of the impact we make on the land, and we try to reduce that wherever we can," said Zwicker.
In fact, the church has recently switched every light in its worship space from incandescent bulbs to LEDs, which can be dimmed.
"I quite expect that our savings in 2020 will be better than they were in 2019."