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This article was published 28/4/2018 (594 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two Winnipeg congregations are connecting to a higher source of power — and generating a little cash in the process.
Churchill Park United Church and Korean United Church plan to install 62 solar panels on the roof of their jointly owned building at 525 Beresford Ave., saving about 90 per cent of their annual electricity costs, Rev. Janet Walker says.
"We are working to be decent stewards of our land," says Walker, minister of Churchill Park, a congregation of about 45. "Harvesting electricity from the sun is a benefit to us and to all the community."
The $54,000 cost of the 62 solar panels, to be installed on the roof of their gymnasium, is offset by an $18,000 rebate from Manitoba Hydro. Installation is projected to begin in September.
The two congregations will split the cost of the project, using recent bequests and capital from the sale of Korean United’s former building to cover the remaining $36,000.
In addition to the United Church building, one other religious building in Winnipeg and one in rural Manitoba received Manitoba Hydro rebates for solar power systems, Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen says. The application deadline is Monday, April 30.
The system at the Beresford Avenue church is designed to provide for a two-way power flow, generating 22,150 kilowatts a year for the utility. On short winter days, the church will buy electricity, but the cost will be considerably less than their current annual bill of $3,000, says Alex Stuart of Sycamore Energy, the company contracted for to install the system. "Churches are obviously looking for a way to reduce their operating expenses," Stuart says.
"What solar (energy) does is lock in their power prices... and (they’re) prepaying for 25 years."
He says with a projected lifespan of 30 years for the panels, the system will pay for itself in about 12 years, depending on electricity rate increases.
Walker says that savings will offset the $40,000 annual cost for utilities and maintenance for the complex, which includes a gym, several large meeting rooms and a commercial kitchen.
"The lights are on all the time," she says. "It is a very busy church."
In addition to the two United Church of Canada congregations, the building hosts the activities of neighbourhood scouts and guides, a dance troupe, a spiritualist group and two choirs. Several small-scale food producers also rent the on-site commercial kitchen.
Although the churches welcome lower electricity bills, the main motivation for making the switch to solar power is reducing the environmental footprint of the building, says Rev. Kwang Beom Cho of Korean United, a congregation of about 45 which moved into the Lord Roberts area church seven years ago.
"The major reason is environmental," he says. "We should care for the Earth."
That sense of stewardship — and a good deal from Ontario Hydro — prompted St. John’s United Church in Marathon, Ont., to install solar panels six years ago, becoming the first building in the northern Ontario community to go solar.
"As a Christian community, we’re environmentally friendly and we’re trying to mitigate some of the damage humanity has done to the environment," says church board member George Bott, adding that nine church members also installed solar panels on their homes through similar incentives.
The congregation of about 30 people earns about $8,000 a year by selling power to Ontario Hydro. Bott says the small congregation attempts to use its resources wisely by sharing worship space with the local Anglican and Baptist congregations, and dividing the front yard into garden plots tended by the community.
The solar project on Beresford Avenue is a first for a United Church building in Manitoba, but Walker hopes their example will spark enthusiasm among other religious groups to explore alternate sources of energy.
"We’re excited about a new source of power," Walker says.
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.