Thanks to Many, We Own Our Solar Panels
On January 6, 2017 we purchased the solar panels on the roof of the sanctuary building. This event culminates a long series of events and actions dating back to the 2010-2011 time frame. The initial conversations about possibly installing solar panels at the church were started by Jim Cramer, who was inspired by his recent experience with the panels at home, and discussions with Interfaith Power & Light and with Cool Davis.
Early meetings with interested church members explored feasibility and financing options. Tax incentives were not available to us (a non-profit) but could be claimed by someone willing to pay for the panels and lease them to the church. There was general agreement to work out a plan, lease or buy that was financed by pledges for donations, so as not impact the church budget.
Engaging Dean Newberry of Talbott Solar in Davis produced an acceptable plan along with a willing investor to own the system. Essentially, we were guaranteed a modest savings in electricity cost (electric bill went down, lease payment took up most of that savings), with a buyout option after 5 years giving all savings to the church. Approximately one-half of the church electricity need is provided by the solar panels.
In September 2011 church council approved the plan and a lease was signed with Neal Levine on Oct 11, 2011. The lease payments increased by 3% each year, further incentivizing us to take the first buyout opportunity in January 2017. A collection of generous donors has stepped forward and allowed us to accomplish this on January 6 at a cost of $32,981.
The panels have performed flawlessly doing their job, providing approximately one-half the electricity usage. Unfortunately they also provided shade and nesting shelter for some of Davis’ pigeon population, and a protective fence was installed around the perimeter to prevent that activity. The production is continuously monitored by a Sunny Portal device accessible online using a phone app.
We owe many thanks to Jim Cramer for orchestrating the buyout and to the many people who contributed to it. Brian Horsfield has kept close watch over the system, and initiated the final buy-out, ensuring it was completed at the earliest date.
The savings for the lease alone is over $5000 a year. Current electricity production is about 18,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which amounts to 11 tons of carbon not emitted into the air were PG&E to generate this power at gas powered facilities. We expect the panels to continue producing electricity for more than 20 years into the future with little loss of efficiency (less than ½ percent per year).