This 29 kWp solar array on Deer Park United Church was made possible thanks to community fundraising efforts and the Energy Efficiency Alberta Commercial Solar Rebate. The importance of key champions to usher in a project such as this cannot be overstated.
Prior to making the decision to go solar, the church screened a PBS video called “Understanding the Weather Machine” for interested congregants. Based on the discussions and feedback received from those who attended the screening, it became apparent that there was a desire from the congregation to do something about climate change. Many felt disempowered to do something on their own homes, especially those who live in apartments and condominiums who are not able to install solar to meet their personal needs. As a result, a “Catch the Light” committee was formed who took action by fundraising and donating money towards the church’s solar PV system. The result is that Deer Park United Church will benefit from the electricity cost savings of going solar as well as showcasing environmental leadership in the community.
Interview with Jan van Egteren from Deer Park United Church
How did the church committee decide to look into investing in solar?
“There is a high degree of environmental awareness and desire to be good stewards of the earth that exists in the Deer Park and St. Andrews congregation so when the Provincial government announced enhancements to its Energy Efficiency Alberta Residential and Commercial Solar Program, an ad hoc committee was formed to pursue putting panels on the roof of the church. The committee was called the Catch the Light. Indicative quotes were initially obtained from a couple of solar system providers, including SkyFire, and based on those quotes, the amount of money the church would need to raise for the project, net of the Provincial government grants, was determined. A grant application was submitted, and after initial approval for the grant by Energy Efficiency Alberta, a fund raising initiative was kicked off.”
Why did the committee choose to hire SkyFire for the project?
“During the fund raising initiative the committee solicited formal quotes from three different solar system providers. SkyFire was chosen on the basis of its competitive quote and its reputation.”
What was your personal motivation for pushing this project forward?
“My personal motivation is a combination of a desire to reduce my environmental footprint in light of all the concerns over climate change. However, the economics of installing solar panels on a home are not as good as the economics on installing on a church… In addition, I am a renewable industry professional so I understand that there are likely to be considerable economic benefits of essentially locking in at least some of your power costs for a 20 to 25 year period, which Deer Park achieves by installing solar panels.”
How will the solar PV system benefit the church?
“Cost savings for the church were one consideration. As mentioned above, a solar panel system locks in at least part of the church’s energy costs for 20 to 25 years. Since the program included a grant, the economics of that decision improved dramatically. But in addition to that, the church benefits by showing environmental leadership in the community.”