On Wednesday, January 6, Richards Memorial United Church (Richards Memorial), in London, Ontario will begin operating its new microFIT rooftop solar installation. The project is the city’s first photovoltaic (PV) system on a church building.
“We’ve seen cars stop in the street and (drivers) roll down their windows to look up,” says the church’s pastor, Rev. Janet Fradette. Her congregation chose to focus on the environment in 2010, and she says the twenty-year contract is a reminder that a commitment to sustainability must be long-term.
“It’s one of those projects that has appeal from whatever viewpoint you look at it,” says the Reverend. The installation will create renewable energy, draw revenue, and provide work for Ontarians who have chosen to pursue green careers. Its fifty panels, installed in the shape of a cross, will produce 14 MW-hours of solar power and prevent the release of 11 tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year.
Programs Create Renewable Energy, Careers for Workers with Solar Training
The church secured an $87,000 loan from the Middlesex Presbytery of the United Church of Canada to finance its PV project. It expects to pay off the loan within eight years and then generate income by participating in Ontario’s microFIT program. The program creates renewable energy and careers for graduates of “green” educational streams, like solar training courses, by paying high prices for electricity produced by grid-tied solar or wind projects under 10 kW of capacity. The microFIT and its companion program for larger projects, simply referred to as the feed-in tariff (FIT), both lock prices into twenty-year contracts.
Richards Memorial expects the solar project to generate up to $216,000 over the course of its participation in the microFIT program. The church hired Direct Current Renewable Energy (Direct Current) to install the cross-shaped solar array. Direct Current is a Brantford-based company whose management brings to the table more than a decade and a half worth of training and experience in commercial and residential electrical systems. The company had already installed one system on a church in Hamilton prior to constructing the London project.
The church chose the last day of Epiphany to hold its dedication ceremony for the new solar system. The date, fittingly, commemorates the time when the Wise Men of the Bible followed the light in the sky in their search for Jesus.