Solar in Albuquerque saves a bundle

The Earth Web committee at First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque sponsors courses, sustainability fairs and forums on renewable energy to educate its church community. They explored solar, and after analyzing federal and state regulations, they developed a proposal for a straightforward lease arrangement between a vendor and the church, with the solar energy company handling all the regulatory and tax issues. The church has the option to purchase the system in seven years. The panels were installed on several campus roofs. The 48 kW system is estimated to generate almost 77,000kWh/yr, supplying about 75% of church needs. The solar company installed a ballasted system with no roof penetrations. The panels have a five-degree pitch and are not visible from the street. During the dedication ceremony with the whole congregation participating, they used water guns to do the ‘christening.’ The panels are expected to function for 25 – 30 years, and with net metering, the electricity will either be used directly by the church or will reverse the electric meter. They system will save about 42 tons of carbon dioxide per year and $70,000 in electricity costs over the 20-year term of the lease. The influence of this project has been felt in several arenas. Church members have gotten excited about the possibility of solar electricity and at least eight households have installed solar panels, producing a total of approximately 20.84 kWh/mo.

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