East Millcreek church goes solar
Conservation • Christ United Methodist expects system to provide one third of energy needs.
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It took $105,000 in grants and contributions to install 99 3-by-5-foot electricty-generating solar panels across the roof of a two-story education building at the Christ United Methodist Church.

Estimated annual savings for the East Millcreek congregation that spearheaded the project: $3,000.

But according to senior pastor Marti Zimmerman, the idea behind the nearly two-year effort goes far beyond money spent versus money saved.

"It's about encouraging Earth care and encouraging our congregation to reduce its carbon footprint," Zimmerman said, adding that Christ United is the first area church to install such an array. The effort has led other churches in the Utah Interfaith Power and Light coalition to express an interest. The 25 congregations are dedicated to environmental stewardship.

The church has a Web-based display that shows how much energy, in real time, the panels are generating, she said, which has been noticed by the church's young people who attend classes in the education building.

About $60,000 came from Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky program, with the remaining $55,000 raised through contributions from the church's 1,000-member congregation.

"Ours was a low-key campaign," she said. "Low-key and remarkable."

The solar-panel array takes up nearly every square inch of the education building's roof and is expected to provide heating, cooling and some lighting for the structure that includes an auditorium and classrooms.

Rocky Mountain spokesman Jeff Hymas said the beauty of the program is that the system is metered. "If they produce more than the church needs at any particular time, that energy goes back onto the power grid, and that will help reduce the church's overall electricity cost."

The installer was Park City-based Alpenglow Solar. Spokesman Josh Kordecki said studies show that the panels will provide about one-third of the church's annual electricity costs.

He ticks off a list of other numbers, as well:

The 99 panels will generate 23 kilowatts of power, or about 35,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in a year, he said. This output will reduce the building's carbon imprint by about 55,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. That, he said, is equivalent to not driving a car 58,543 miles, or about 2.5 times around the equator.

As funds become available, Christ United plans to install an energy-efficient lighting system, Kordecki said.

The Blue Sky program began in 2000 and was focused on developing wind-powered electricity through the purchase of wind-power units by Rocky Mountain customers. That money was then awarded in the form of grants to increase development of the alternative power source.

Solar power was added to the grant process in 2006.

jkeahey@sltrib.com —

For information

Christ United Methodist Church, 2375 E. 3300 South, www.christmethodistchurch.net, 801-486-5473

Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky program, www.rockymountainpower.net/bluesky, 800-769-3717

Alpenglow Solar, www.alpenglowsolar.com

Utah Interfaith Power and Light, www.utahipl.org