Solar Illuminates Congregation’s Values

The pathway to climate action can be like ascending a mountain. Take for instance a solar array. The shiny, electricity-producing array gleams like a snow-capped peak on the horizon. But hiking the twists and turns can be arduous and much farther than you first thought. It takes a congregation really dedicated to its values to remain on the path and reach the top.

Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis showed just that commitment through two years of planning through installation. This month, they dedicated their new 56 kw DC system as a beacon to climate justice.

Judson wisely selected three leaders to shepherd the project, empowering them to explore several options and tasking them to report back to other church leaders and the congregation. Bill Forsyth, Larry Jacobsen, and Brad Joern divided the work to fit their strengths. Bill worked on the financing aspect; Larry brought the knowledge of the church building; and Brad handled communicating with the congregation.

They reached out to MNIPL and found a robust solar program with a trusted design-installer and unique financing options. This allowed them to take advantage of tax credits even as a non-profit. Larry gathered the necessary electrical usage data, and within a few weeks, they reviewed their first proposal. It called for a 104 panel-array, which would offset 34% of their electrical usage.

Next steps involved Larry climbing on top of Judson’s roofs with structural and electrical engineers while Bill surveyed financing options. Their due diligence found that actually they could build a bigger array—140 panels covering nearly 75% of their usage. This improved the financing and allowed them to bundle a roof replacement with the project. The information changed regularly during discovery, and Brad had his hands full communicating with church leaders.

Finally the day came when the team presented the final proposal to the congregation. Brad admitted he was a little nervous, knowing how complicated the project was. But Judson had grown over the years in its dedication to climate justice. They pray regularly for the earth and climate change such as climate refugees. Their pastor, the Rev. Travis Norvell, bikes to work and includes environmental justice themes in his sermons (follow him on twitter: @pedalingpastor).  

The team had done their homework. They presented a project that fit their congregation’s environmental values while also taking a prudent financial path. After some healthy Q&A’s, the congregation embraced the array whole-heartedly, and everyone celebrated. There were still a lot of steps for the team, but Larry championed the project from that point forward, working with the developer through the installation phase.  

In early June, Xcel threw the final switch to turn on the system, and with this final step Judson summited the peak. They turned their values into action—a new source of energy that offsets a huge portion of their carbon emissions, helping to alleviate the climate crisis.