Church Goes Green

Florida Avenue Baptist in D.C. shines light on solar energy.

Posted: 05/03/2011 08:12 AM EDT

The Florida Avenue Baptist Church, located in Washington D.C.’s historic LeDroit Park neighborhood, will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday to celebrate a new 10-kilowatt rooftop solar power system that will be used to power the church’s lighting and air conditioning. It is the first church in the District to go solar.

 

Dr. Earl Trent Jr., the church’s senior pastor, estimates that the $60,000 system will initially reduce electricity costs by 15 percent and that there will be even greater savings later once the building’s windows are retrofitted and other energy efficiency measures are put in place.

 

According to Gilbert Campbell III, co-owner of Volt Energy, the company that installed the solar system, the church’s flat roof made it an ideal choice as a site to introduce solar energy to a transitional neighborhood. He also had to consider such factors as whether the roof could take the weight of the panels and shading issues.

 

“All of the technical requirements checked out perfectly,” Campbell said. “We also had to look at the financial feasibility, and that’s where Volt and Florida Avenue Baptist were creative in coming up with a model that works for the church and its members to get the project financed by taking advantage of federal and local incentives.”  

 

The federal government provided a cash grant to help fund the project and the church financed the rest. It also will receive renewable energy credits from the city’s electric utility company, which will help reduce costs. The solar system will be fully paid for in five years.

 

The installation took just about two weeks and provided an opportunity for four local residents to learn new skills. Campbell said that he hopes to employ them on future projects.

 

Trent said the solar project is the first phase of green ministry that will be used to educate his congregants and the local community about how they can make their own homes and businesses more energy efficient. He has installed a flat-screen monitor that will show the church’s energy savings in real time, so that the idea of energy efficiency becomes less technical. Visitors to the church’s Web site also will be able to view the savings.

 

“We’ll also be teaching sustainability—from health, agriculture, how and what we choose to eat and how to buy locally grown food, support Black farmers, etc.,” Trent said. “The other phase is the make the church a model for other churches. The roof is accessible by stairs, so we’re going to conduct tours so that they can see how it works, and we will share the lessons we learned so they can duplicate it. This is the future.”

Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

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