Solar Panels at SsAM? Week 1

Shall our church install solar panels on its roofs as a means of generating electricity?

by Danny Schweers, Vestry Member, August 12, 2019

In late June, I emailed our junior warden, Nana Soto, saying, “I know the vestry has been talking about replacing all the roofs. That would be the perfect time to look into the possibility of installing solar panels. I would like this vestry to consider this, to save money in the long run and for our church to be an inspiration to others.”

Nana thought it was a great idea, but I was slow to act on it. First I had to count the cost. A project like this only happens if at least one person pursues it consistently. It took me two months to decide! One nudge for me was seeing so many solar panel arrays in Vermont while on vacation there. Impressive!

On August 5, I flew the idea by Pat Saunders, who is shepherding the roof project, and by Dave Clouser, who is also on SsAM’s Property Committee. After much discussion with Pat, she said, “If there is anything that you can do to find ways to lower energy costs, make us less dependent on Delmarva, and does not intrude on the necessary replacement of the roof, I say, ‘Thank you.’ Please keep us informed…”

So, with the blessing of the Nana, Pat, and Dave of the Property Committee, I reached out to seven local solar panel companies, asking them for free evaluations of SsAM for solar panel installations. KW Solar called me immediately. The first thing they need is a copy of our utility bill from Delmarva Power. They told me that the maximum wattage of any solar array is limited by law to 110% of our annual electric usage. As I understand it, by law Delmarva Power is obligated to buy any excess power we generate, but we cannot go overboard.

I was pleased to learn that KW Solar and, I assume, other companies will help us look for grants to pay for the system.

I also reached out to Lisa Locke of Delaware Industrial Power and — the Delaware chapter of a national non-profit organization promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy among faith communities. She suggested we reach out to Clean Energy USA — the company that installed solar panels for the Diocese administrative building, for Camp Arrowhead Environmental Center, and for Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware in Lewes. A possibility to pursue.

One possibility is that our church may be able to lease a solar panel array instead of buying one. That is what the Unitarians did in Lewes and what Hanby Middle School did in the Brandywine School District. A possibility to pursue.

At some point in the process our church may need to get a new comprehensive energy audit. Apparently we did this some years ago, but may need to do it again. Through its partnership with Energize Delaware — Delaware Power & Light can coordinate a comprehensive energy audit and our church would only pay 10% of the total $1,500 to $2,500 fee if our church agrees to certain conditions. Again, a possibility to pursue.

Finally, if you can recommend a solar panel company, or want to be put on the SsAM Solar email list, please contact the church office.

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