Churches Get Creative With Solar Power

Church buildings often provide a huge expanse of roof space perfect for generating solar electricity. Caloundra Uniting Church utilised their rooftop real estate in a unique way; using solar panels to make a religious as well as an environmental statement – a solar array in the shape of a cross.
   
Installed in 2009, the 4.2kW system consists of 24 solar panels. According to David Lowry from Caloundra Uniting Church, the system not only generates all the church’s electricity needs, but also earns the church approximately $2,000 annually through solar feed in tariffs. The solar array reduces greenhouse gas emissions in relation to church activities by 65% . 
   
“This visually striking cross we hope will be a reminder to the whole community of the importance of “going green” to save the planet,” said Mr Lowry.
   
While a large solar array is a substantial outlay, financial assistance is available for Australian churches and non-profit groups to install solar power. 
    
The Australian Government’s Solar Credits program provides community groups with rebates that can slash thousands off the cost of a grid connected or off grid solar power system. Community organisations and not-for-profits can also receive support under the Government’s $2.75 billion Climate Change Action Fund.
    
Caloundra Uniting Church received the Solar Credits rebate and a grant from the Queensland State Government Gambling Community Benefit Fund (GCBF). Under the GCBF, one-off grants of up to $35,000 are allocated to approved not-for-profit organisations in Queensland to help them provide community services or activities that benefit the community.
    
The Caloundra church is also part of the Uniting Church’s Green Church Initiative, which strives to raise environmental awareness in congregations and throughout the community and to engage in practical measures on behalf of the environment.
   
Elsewhere, churches are going beyond the rooftop to create solar energy in very creative ways. A Catholic church congregation in Saskatoon, Canada has integrated solar cells into their building’s stained glass windows.