220915ind solar

Abel Collins, a project manager for Sol Power, talks about the solar array that was installed on his property in Matunuck in this 2021 file photo. His company installed an array of over 100 panels at Peace Dale Congregational Church and the church will celebrate its switch to solar this weekend with a special event Sunday.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — This Sunday will bring recognition of both spiritual and solar energy at Peace Dale Congregational Church.

While Sunday services are a mainstay at the church, celebrating the installation of new solar panels and recognizing their contribution is something a little different. A 2 p.m. ceremony will celebrate the church’s commitment to conservation.

“We hope this event will help raise awareness in terms of ecologically sustainable practices. We are actively working to create a greener future for generations to come,” said PDCC Pastor Fred Evenson.

The Book of Genesis in the Bible notes that God said let there be light in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night.

Harnessing some of that daytime light is also part of PDCC’s environmental ministry as well as a budget-saving effort to lower the building’s $14,000 monthly electric bill.

“In the first two full months of operation, July and August, 2022, the church not only had a zero electric bill, but created a surplus for future use,” noted Mary-Gail Smith, church “Green Team” member.

She helped others, including team co-chairs Don Hermes and Claudia Swain, to encourage the church and the community to consider moving away from using fossil fuels and to use alternative energy sources such as solar.

Church member Jim Blackerby put it succinctly in a letter to the PDCC congregation. He is also chairman of the solar-panel fundraising committee.

“You have a great opportunity to use your charitable contribution to help us all move from talking the talk to walking the walk, and make a difference in having a sustainable earth,” he said.

Indeed he was right.

The process of obtaining the necessary permits in 2021 took some time and construction began in the winter of 2022. It was completed this spring for a total project cost of $113,000, which was offset by a $33,000 grant as well as church members’ contributions.

The fundraising campaign to erase the balance brought $90,000---more than $10,000 over the goal. “Donations of all sizes poured in testifying to the support from the community; all donations were greatly appreciated,” said Smith.

At PDCC, having solar panels is tied to the eco-justice theme. Both attempts symbolize in words and action the church’s mission and commitment to improving environmental quality, Evenson said.

Abel Collins, project manager with Sol Power LLC, which is worked with PDCC on the project, said, “In the coming decades, we are going to witness a massive shift as both the household and transportation sectors transition to clean energy.”

“With savings to be had and a planet to save, the sooner the better,” said Collins, also a South Kingstown Town Council member.

Collins said that beyond expected cost savings for going solar, “there’s no better way to reduce your personal carbon footprint than by electrifying your energy use - switching to electrical appliances and vehicles wherever possible - and sourcing that electricity from renewable sources.”

And that is one way the project links to the church’s environmental ministry, said Evenson.

“Eco-justice is about advocating for the well-being of all humanity, as well as for the thriving creation itself. It’s a matter of being a good neighbor, of bringing shalom to the whole of creation,” he said.

Write to Bill Seymour, freelance writer covering news and feature stories, at independent.southcountylife@gmail.com.

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