- Unitarian Universalism Connection
Support Solar Power in Coal Country
The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta (FUUSM), a UUA-certified Green Sanctuary congregation, intends to maximize the effectiveness of our solar panels. FUUSM launched its solar energy project with the installation of a 12.32 kW photovoltaic array in October 2016 on the roof of the sanctuary building on the corner of Third and Putnam streets in Marietta, Ohio. That system provides enough electricity to power our sanctuary and the social hall in the basement.
The adjacent Religious Exploration and administrative building, however is more than 130 years old. Its roof cannot accommodate solar panels. While structurally sound, the windows are original, and leaky. Although we insulated the attic years ago and weather-stripped and sealed what we could, the walls are not insulated, and the building is all-electric, including its central heating system. Although the area of this building is much smaller than our sanctuary, its electric consumption is much larger.
Because our congregation cherishes the universe and its resources, we want both of our buildings to be as energy efficient as possible, so that the electricity we generate with our solar panels each year will completely balance the electricity we use. As long as our RE building is leaky, we cannot accomplish this.
In an act of faith, in August 2017, we connected the electrical systems of our two buildings, and in December 2017, we installed an additional 5kW of solar panels on the roof of our sanctuary, aiming to supply electricity to the RE building.
Our intention with this Faithify campaign is invest in efforts to make our historic building more energy efficient through the installation of wall insulation, double-pane windows, and a new electrical HVAC system for climate control.
To that end an anonymous donor has offered $10,000 as a dollar-for-dollar matching challenge grant. More than two thirds of the match already has been raised from other donors and through fund-raising activities by the congregation’s Green Sanctuary Committee. FUUSM is seeking donations from Faithify donors and from people and organizations who support renewable energy in the greater Mid-Ohio Valley to complete this match. Each dollar contributed will be matched, doubling the effectiveness of donations. The anonymous donor set a deadline of April 22, 2018—Earth Day—to complete fund raising for this matching grant.
FUUSM is the first religious organization in the Mid-Ohio Valley to install solar panels and to utilize solar energy as its main source of electricity for its sanctuary. In investing in renewable energy, FUUSM is reducing the carbon footprint of the city and serving as a model of responsible stewardship of natural resources. Because the solar array is “on the grid,” excess electricity generated on sunny days is sent into the system for use by other local consumers. That is to say, on sunny days, FUUSM is providing clean, renewable solar energy to our neighbors.
The solar array was acquired by Golden Rule Associates LLC, an entity established by FUUSM member David Ballantyne, The reason for this method of acquisition is that as a private corporation, Golden Rule is eligible for a 30 percent federal tax benefit for renewable energy infrastructure that a non-profit entity such as FUUSM is not.
Why Should I Care About This Project? Our intention with this project is twofold: Members of FUUSM wish to minimize our environmental impact, and especially our carbon emissions We also wish to take a bold, leadership role in promoting renewable energy here in coal and fracking country. Here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, approximately 75 percent of the electricity produced comes from coal-fired power plants. Numerous community members from this area have expressed interest in FUUSM’s solar energy project. Considerable publicity was provided from Green Sanctuary Committee press releases when the first array of solar panels was installed; additional media coverage of the solar energy project followed Earth Day events in April 2017 and the recent launch of the matching grant program and the solar array expansion. FUUSM’s solar energy project and the manner in which we acquired the solar panels was innovative. The partnerships it has established with conservation-oriented organizations in the region such as the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action group can serve as a model for other UU congregations on how to launch and conduct a solar energy project.
Who Will Benefit and How? Life on Earth will benefit from this project. If every faith community acted to reduce their environmental impact as we have done, the effect on atmospheric carbon levels would be measurable. The immediate beneficiaries of this project will be the members and friends of FUUSM as our electricity bill would be reduced. We would like our annual electric bill to be $0, because all our electricity would come from the sun. In addition to benefiting from the cost savings through energy conservation, the congregation has also benefited from the favorable publicity of its sustainability efforts through additional visitors and newcomers who have attended worship services and other FUUSM events after learning about FUUSM’s solar energy commitment. Other organizations in the Mid-Ohio Valley will also benefit through learning about the process of acquiring and installing solar panels and energy-efficiency measures and how these initiatives can save in the costs of electricity. Other UU congregations can benefit by learning how a UU group that is committed to environmental awareness and energy conservation can achieve cost-saving and Earth-friendly benefits.
Specific Plans and Accomplishments:
• Installation of first array of 44 solar panels on the roof of the FUUSM sanctuary building; accomplished in November, 2016;
• Installation of infrastructure required to transfer solar power from the panels to the RE building; accomplished in August, 2017;
• Installation of additional 19 solar panels on the sanctuary building; accomplished in December, 2017;
• Installation of infrastructure required to transfer solar power from the panels to the RE building; accomplished in August 2017;
• Plans to make the historic RE building more energy efficient were set in December 2017;
• Commitment of $10,000 matching grant from anonymous FUUSM member toward this solar power project (specifically for energy-conservation initiatives in the RE building);
• Donations of $7,165 already received toward this match.
• Installation of wall insulation in the RE building to improve energy efficiency;
• Installation of double-pane windows in the RE building;
• Installation of a new, energy-efficient HVAC system in the RE building.
• February 1 – March 29, 2018- Faithify campaign
• February 16, 2018 – “Just Dinner” fund-raising event (dishes prepared with low-carbon impact, with locally, organically or ethically produced ingredients) sponsored by FUUSM Green Sanctuary Committee
• April 22, 2018 – Deadline for solar matching grant fund raising;
• June 2018 – Installation of wall insulation in the RE building;
• Fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018- June 30, 2019) – Installation of double-pane windows and new HVAC system in RE building.
Those Involved & Their Qualifications:
Dawn Hewitt Chair, FUUSM Green Sanctuary Committee FUUSM member; managing editor for Bird Watcher’s Digest
Shari Miller FUUSM Board President; member Green Sanctuary Committee FUUSM member
David Ballantyne President, Golden Rule Associates, LLC; member Green Sanctuary Committee FUUSM member,
retired metallurgical engineer
George Banziger, PhD Past FUUSM Board President; member Green Sanctuary Committee FUUSM member,
retired college administrator
Rev. Kathryn Hawbaker FUUSM minister (full-time)
Use of Money: Use of the total funds collected for the project and the use of Faithify funds to be collected are shown below (all costs involve energy-efficiency initiatives in the FUUSM RE building):
Total Project Costs Requested Portion
Salaries all personnel costs and administration costs are covered by volunteers $0
Wall insulation – materials & installation $3,986 $2,000*
Double-pane windows- materials and installation $12,793
Heat-exchange HVAC system $16,342
Total $33,121* $2,000
*A matching grant will double this amount, fully funding wall insulation.
If the matching grant project is successful, a total of $20,000 will be raised. The additional $13,121 of these costs will be covered by grants from the FUUSM’s trust funds to be requested after the April 22, 2018, deadline for the matching grant.
Other Funds Already Raised; What We Will Do If We Don’t Raise the Rest:
Source Amount Status
Individual contributions & fund-raising activities of Green Sanctuary Committee $7,165 Committed
If we are not able to collect the rest of the funds required for the matching fund challenge, we will scale back a few of our energy-efficiency measures. However, we think that a Faithify donation will stimulate many others in the area—and beyond—to donate to the project so that it can be advanced to final completion.
How the Project Will Be Sustained: A hallmark and a goal of this project is sustainability. The conservation improvements to our RE building will have long-lasting benefits. With the acquisition and installation of energy-efficiency measures in the RE building, FUUSM will be able to accrue considerable ongoing savings in its utility costs. This example of renewable energy will serve as a model of energy conservation, sustainability, and utility-cost savings to the entire region for years to come.
Who Else in the Community Thinks It’s Important? The continuing media coverage in the Mid-Ohio Valley of the FUUSM solar energy project has raised community awareness of energy conservation that a single religious congregation can provide. Members of the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action group have attended our fund-raisers and donated to our matching fund. The owner of a busy local construction business installed solar panels at the business headquarters frequently consults with the FUUSM Buildings and Grounds Committee. Publicity about his solar panels and FUUSM’s solar initiatives has generated interest in solar energy among many businesses and organizations in the Mid-Ohio Valley, including the City of Marietta, which has utilized the consulting services of Dave Ballantyne (FUUSM member and President of Golden Rule LLC) for its plans for solar energy on one of its buildings.
Partnerships & Endorsements: Golden Rule LLC has covered the acquisition and installation costs of the solar panels; Pickering Associates of Parkersburg, WV, has arranged the acquisition and installation of solar panels and provided in-kind services of consultation about our entire solar-energy project.
How Will We Share What We Learn? FUUSM’s Green Sanctuary Committee will share what is learned in this project with other UU congregations through the Central East Regional UU organization, with continued press releases on progress of the project as energy-efficiency measures are achieved, and with presentations at UU General Assemblies.