Game-Changing Moves: Churches Utilize Incentives to Strengthen Community Solar
Since the inception of the first community solar project in 2006, the country has made remarkable progress, now boasting over 2,000 solar projects across the nation. These projects aim to make solar energy accessible to all, removing financial and residential barriers. However, despite this advancement, there’s still work to be done in reaching low-income communities and ensuring they benefit from these initiatives. Federal funding boosts and new tax incentives could be the key to compelling more churches to step up and help close the community solar gaps.
When churches embark on solar installations, the energy generated primarily serves their on-site activities. But some visionary churches go the extra mile by incorporating solar storage into their off-grid systems. By doing so, they gain the capacity to become resilience hubs for residents during grid outages or disasters, offering essential support and safety to their communities.
Take, for instance, the inspiring story of the Sargent Memorial Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. A historically African American congregation known for its social activism, this church is making a tangible difference in its community, located in D.C.’s Ward 7. The ward, home to approximately 81,000 residents, is predominantly Black, with more than a quarter of the population living below the poverty line.
In June, Sargent Memorial Presbyterian Church took the lead in hosting a remarkable 230-kilowatt community solar program. This visionary initiative includes rooftop and parking lot canopy panel installations. Beyond just meeting the church’s energy needs, the program serves an impressive 73 low- and moderate-income households, empowering residents to reduce their carbon footprint and energy costs while fostering a cleaner and greener community.
These stories highlight the potential of churches to serve as beacons of sustainability and social responsibility. By embracing community solar projects, they not only contribute to a cleaner environment but also uplift their communities, making progress towards a more equitable and inclusive energy future.
At Sargent Memorial Presbyterian Church, Pastor Juan Guthrie initially saw solar as a personal endeavor. But as he explored further, he realized the potential to extend their impact beyond the church itself. Transitioning to shared solar became an opportunity to expand their ministry and serve the broader community.
Meanwhile, Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland made history with its 2-megawatt solar farm, one of the largest faith-based community solar projects. Covering just eight acres of their property, it supplies electricity to 350 families. Remarkably, 30% of subscribers are low-to-moderate-income earners, receiving discounted subscriptions.
The positive impact is immense. The yearly energy generated by Cedar Ridge’s solar farm will replace non-renewable sources, saving emissions equivalent to five million miles driven by an average gasoline-powered vehicle, 6,000 barrels of oil, and 1,500 tons of coal burned.
While Sargent Memorial Presbyterian Church and Cedar Ridge Community Church’s initiatives are commendable, they are not the norm. Nationally, solar installations in places of worship often favor wealthier, white, and educated areas, revealing the shortcomings of broader community solar efforts.
In summary, these churches’ commitment to community solar is inspiring, showcasing the potential for solar energy to uplift communities and create a sustainable future. However, broader efforts must strive for greater inclusivity to truly address disparities in solar access.