Norwich, Vermont, is not a particularly large town. It has a population of fewer than 3,500 people. That being the case, it came as a bit of a surprise when we discovered that three churches in the town all got solar systems over the short span of just two years. Perhaps each of these systems deserves separate treatment, but we feel it might be good to show what a community can do when its people think along similar lines.
The Norwich Energy Committee runs an annual Solarize Norwich program that helped push the churches to consider solar power. The installations have rather dissimilar histories, the members of the congregations had somewhat different specific goals, and the financing was different from one project to the next. Apart from the fact that they were all in the same community, the most important shared feature was that all three systems were installed by Norwich Solar Technologies (NST).
Troy McBride, the Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of NST, wanted to be sure to mention the first church in Norwich to have a solar system installed was not one of the three his company worked with. St. Barnabas Episcopal Church was an early adopter celebrating over 10 years of solar power usage, installed in 2008. The three churches with new systems are the Norwich Congregational Church, St. Francis Catholic Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Upper Valley (UUCUV) in Norwich.
Norwich Congregational Church
The Norwich Congregational Church has a new, roof-mounted system, consisting of 34 Suniva 325-watt modules, for 11.1 kilowatts (kW). The system includes 34 SolarEdge Optimizers and a SolarEdge inverter. It was commissioned in November of 2016.
Funding for this system was partly covered by a grant from Green Mountain Power. Grant proposals can be daunting, so NST provided the church with help. Over a 25-year service lifetime, the value of net metering for the system is estimated to be $54,000. The estimated rate of return on the solar investment is 10.4%.
NST used its EZ-PV MetaModule™ system to mount the solar panels. The advantage of this system is partly that the installation can be done quickly and with minimal disruption.
Norwich Congregational Church’s website is norwichcongregational.org
The Unitarian Universalist Church
The Unitarian Universalist Church of the Upper Valley in Norwich already had solar credits donated from an offsite solar system when it decided to mount another on the rooftop. One of the factors in the decision was that its new building had beautiful south-facing roofs, and people thought it would be a shame to let it go to waste. The new system is a community solar array, with church members participating in net metering.
This system has 45 solar panels, each of 350 watts, providing a total power of 15.75 kW DC. It includes 45 SolarEdge P400 Optimizers and a SolarEdge HD Wave SE11400H-US inverter. The racking is IronRidge XR-100, using EcoFasten QuikFoot attachments.
The UUCUV system was completed in 2018. Its members blessed the panels near the winter solstice on Sunday, December 23rd.
UUCUV’s website is uucuv.org.
St. Francis of Assisi Church
The Catholic Church in Norwich also got a solar system in 2018. This turned out largely to be the result of activities of Dominic Scanlan, a high school student who took on the work of pushing for a solar system as part of a confirmation service project.
Scanlan understood that the church was spending $1,000 per year on electricity, and looked for a way to offset that. He managed to get a donation of $8,000 from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation of Hanover, New Hampshire, and he quickly set about finding the remainder of the approximately $13,000 needed to build the system. In that also, he succeeded.
The St. Francis of Assisi solar system has twelve Solaria 330-watt solar panels, for a capacity of 3.96kW. Like the other systems at the Norwich churches, it uses SolarEdge Optimizers and a SolarEdge inverter. The mounting system is based on IronRidge Flush mounts.
The project at St. Francis of Assisi is expected to save the church $30,000 over its lifetime.
St. Francis of Assisi’s web site is uppervalleyparishes.org/st_francis.html.
All of these systems, built by Norwich Solar Technologies, represent savings and price stability for the churches that own them. Importantly, they point a way for reducing carbon emissions, as well.