In our parking lot is an array of solar panels, developed in partnership with Cleveland-based Solar Action, that supply electricity for our building. Solar panels are not often talked about as an expression of religious conviction. But in 2012, as the debate over climate change started to heat up, First Unitarian Church of Cleveland (now Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland) decided to put up Solar Panels in their parking lot as an expression of our call to environmental stewardship, an expression of our belief in the 7th principle:
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Ministry for Earth sought this system as part of the Green Sanctuary certification which was awarded in 2011. The system includes:
1. Solar array with 380 panels, each producing 240 watts of power
2. An Electric Car Charging Station
3. 38 covered parking spaces under the solar panels
4. Gutters and cisterns to collect water coming off the panels for use in our garden, diverting some water from the storm sewer (paid for by a grant from the NEO Sewer District)
The solar panels have generated 120% of the congregation’s electrical needs since its installation in 2012. The 380 panels generate over 90,000 kilowatt hours per year – enough to supply the yearly power needs of about 10 homes and eliminate 77 tons of CO2 per year. Excess electricity is put back into the grid. Due to the timing of our requirements for electricity vs. when the panels generate power, we still purchase electricity from CEI.
This project, costing over $500,000 for the solar panels and installation, was developed in partnership with Solar Action, a Cleveland-based company whose objective is “to minimize the financial burden associated with the construction of large-scale solar installations by governments and non-profit institutions.” Solar Action made the upfront investment in the panels and installation, with UUCC and its predecessor congregation paying for it through the purchase of the electricity generated by the panels at a rate designed to produce savings over the purchase of all power from CEI.
In December 2021 Solar Action generously donated the panels to UUCC, several years earlier than originally anticipated. This means that the power generated will be essentially free for the rest of the life of the panels. We have engaged Solar Action to provide the needed maintenance to keep the panels operating efficiently
In June 2022 we refurbished the electric charging station. We now have 2 changing stations. It does cost money to maintain these stations. We offer the electricity for free but We do accept donations for the electricity used to charge your car. donate
In the future we will continue to explore more ways that we as a congregation can reduce our carbon footprint.
In 2023 we are pursing a grant from the NEO Sewer district to add cisterns to collect the water that runs off the west side of our building.
Remembering that: We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children….. and we share it with all living things.