Bennington, VT Church Joins the Solar Energy Community
By N. R. Mallery
On May 19, 2015, Solar Pro of Arlington, Vermont completed the installation of 72 roof-mounted solar panels on the Second Congregational Church UCC (SCC) on Hillside Street in Bennington, Vermont. Solar power is expected to produce approximately 20,500 kWh of energy annually, resulting in a 75% reduction of electrical energy costs for the church annually.
“The key incentive which propelled this project forward, in addition to the support of the congregation, was the grant received from Green Mountain Power,” commented Mike Day, who is a member of the Board of Trustees for SCC. “The grant was awarded from GMP as the result of a competitive grant application that was designated for non-profit organizations — for solar projects. We were among the nine recipients that were awarded the grant, and received the maximum award amount of $20,000. It was matched by $40,000 from the church endowment fund.”
The grid-tied solar array is mounted on the south-facing roof of the church. Each of the seventy-two 260-watt Canadian Solar panels has an Enphase micro-inverter that converts the current from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current). The net-metered system is expected to reduce the church’s electric costs by $4,100 per year.
The solar project was part of a phased approach toward reduction of the major operating costs for the church. The oil cost was found to be the largest expense, and electric power was the next largest. The boiler replacement, which was their first priority, was completed in December 2014. It involved replacing an old boiler with two more efficient boilers, new variable-speed circulating pumps and the removal of a hot water heater that serviced the three restrooms in the church. Three on-demand electric hot water heaters were installed to provide hot water to the restrooms. The focus of these efforts and the solar project was to place the church in the best position for the future of the congregation and the many groups and organizations that rely on the church and its facilities.
In celebration that the church is now powered by solar, a Sun and Fun! community event will celebrate this achievement on Saturday, August 22nd, from 10 am to 3 pm. It is open to the public. There will be live music, food, and numerous kids’ activities including face painting and s’mores made in solar ovens. There will also be opportunities to visit displays by various solar companies, non-profit businesses, and environmentally friendly vendors, including Solar Pro, Green Mountain Club, One World Conservation Center, and 350VT. There will also be lectures, films, and educational material available about the environment, recycling, and composting. The event will be held rain or shine. There is a calm space available for any children needing one during the day.
SCC also serves as a meeting place for many local groups such as the Bennington Children’s Chorus, Quiet Valley Quilters, Creative Dance, NA, AA, Grief support, Poverty Work Group, Child Advocacy, Headstart, the Association for the Visually Impaired, Turning Point, and more. For information about the Second Congregational Solar Array or the event, contact Barbara True-Weber or Kathleen Shaw at 802-442-2559. Their website is www.bennscc.org.