Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light has helped a number of congregations to research, fund, and install solar panels. If your congregation is ready not only to conserve energy but also to choose alternative sources of power, we can guide you through the process.
Solar systems consist of an array of panels affixed to the building roof or another structure. by means of metal racks, as well as wiring that connects the panels to one or more central inverters inside the building. Some systems are equipped instead with micro-inverters, one for each panel. The inverters convert the DC (direct current) power generated by the panels into the AC (alternating current) energy used in standard buildings. They also include meters to measure the amount of power being generated in kilowatt hours (kWhs).
Want to see a very cool video about the new solar installation at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Muncie, filmed and edited by Wesley Rice-Snow, one of our youngest H-IPL members? Go here.
Preparing for Solar
For any congregation thinking about installing solar panels, we recommend the following steps:
1. Have the conversation: Secure approval from congregational leadership to install solar if funds become available. H-IPL can help you interpret the benefits of renewable energy for your congregation.
2. Talk to an installer or two: They offer free estimates, and will help you consider the size, positioning, and cost of your array.
3. Consider publicizing the panels to your congregation as a project for which you are passively (or actively) raising funds.
4. Begin (or continue) energy conservation measures, using the tools provided in the Using Energy Prudently Guide and this website.
5. Register as a H-IPL Using Energy Prudently Congregation, using our full range of energy conservation tools and becoming eligible to be notified first when solar panel grant opportunities arise.
Doing these things will position your congregation well for making the move to rooftop solar. You will know more about what kind of array your particular building needs, depending on its roof structure, angle, direction, size, and shading and on your congregation’s likely energy needs. It will also begin to spread interest in renewable energy throughout the congregation, and inspire contributions by members seeking to boost the congregation’s potential.
Funding Your Panels
Nonprofits like religious institutions aren't eligible for the 30% tax credit homeowners and businesses can use to help fund renewable energy projects. But there are other models:
- A limited liability corporation (LLC) which can, if certain conditions are met, finance the panels and receive the 30% tax credit. Read here a case study of one congregation's LLC.
- A low-interest loan structured to be repaid through the energy savings provided both by the panels and by energy conservation measures. Some faith groups have these readily available. Other congregations sell notes to interested members.
- A capital fund campaign for an item that, unlike most, reduces the congregation's long term financial obligations.
- A solar panel grant. Read more here about H-IPL's solar grant program. If your congregation is interested in pursuing a grant for rooftop solar, let us know! We have a waiting list and we would like to include you.