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58-Year-Old Church Uses 21st Century Solar Solution to Cut Energy Costs
by Staff Writers
Inglewood CA (SPX) Jun 29, 2011

In addition to cost savings, the environmental impact of Faith Lutheran's installation is significant. The installation will save an estimated 3,410 barrels of oil or 35,484 pounds of coal and keep 586,935 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

A strong, faithful congregation isn't the only thing powering the 58-year-old Faith Lutheran Church in Inglewood. A 26.6-kilowatt solar installation is now producing a majority of the church's electrical power.

The installation is made up of 144 solar panels placed on 2,500 square feet of the church's concrete roof. Installed in 2008 by California Green Designs, the church has since saved a minimum of $500 to $600 per month in energy costs.

"We are a very large church, with a school and administration building. Our electric bills were getting quite high," says Rev. Dietrich Schleef, head pastor at Faith Lutheran. "We were in the process of planning a church renovation. Solar had been on my mind for many years. I grew up on a farm in Indiana where energy conservation was always important. Our church had a perfectly pitched roof with southern exposure so solar was a natural fit as part of the renovation."

The church took advantage of government rebates and tax credits that reduced the solar installation price tag by $53,000, bringing the total cost to $132,000. "The rebates were very helpful, but we would have probably added solar even without them," says Schleef. The installation is expected to save the church $83,000 in electricity costs over a 10-year period.

At the time of the installation, the number of solar panels was the maximum allowed by Edison. "Soon after, we we opened our doors to a variety of other churches that now use our facilities nonstop.

"The number of kids in our school has grown from 30 to 70. We also decided to open a food pantry with freezers and refrigerators that weren't too energy efficient. Even with all the added use and demand for electricity, it's still nice to receive an energy bill that's about the same size as my electric bill at home," says Schleef.

The church also replaced recessed and flood lighting, over 30 lights with 500 watt bulbs. with more energy efficient, low-watt florescent lighting.

"Church administrators have an obligation to their congregations to keep costs down," says Sevan Varteressian, California Green Designs president. "Those with long-term outlooks can use solar energy to greatly reduce their church's overall operational costs."

In addition to cost savings, the environmental impact of Faith Lutheran's installation is significant. The installation will save an estimated 3,410 barrels of oil or 35,484 pounds of coal and keep 586,935 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere. "As a church, we recycle as much as possible and try to be energy conscious," says Schleef. "We want to do what's right to benefit the environment."

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