Richmond lights up with solar
Richmond Anglican Church has invested in a solar panel suite to make its premises carbon neutral and to demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship in Jesus’ name.
The 25kW array, which covers all the church’s electrical supply plus a surplus to the energy grid, came about through a demonstrated desire by the church to be environmentally conscious, as well as a chance encounter one parishioner had with a solar panel installer.
“Originally it just started from one of the guys in our church, who’d done it at home and was already familiar with some of the options,” says Josh Wilson, a lay youth minister at Richmond who oversaw the solar plans.
“That was coupled with this desire at our church from a number of people that, as Christians, we should try to be more environmentally aware. Those two things really just came together at the same time, and it occurred to us that perhaps this was a way we could better look after the environment, and also potentially create something that would help us financially and make us more self-sufficient in the long term.”
"As Christians, we should try to be more environmentally aware." - Josh Wilson
While the panels represent a significant capital outlay, the church slashed its electricity bill by 20 per cent in only one month of the past 90-day reporting period. The next quarterly bill is expected to be zero. When you add in payments from selling power to the grid, the capital expense is estimated to be recouped within five years.
“Even though this was something people supported on principle, there was some discussion about the financials because this did cost money, and as a church it’s not like we’re flowing in cash,” Mr Wilson says. “But the wardens, parish council and others looked at it, and the way the numbers work out, this will eventually free up money for us from power bills to reinvest in ministry a few years down the track.
“This was, in many respects, an expression of our faith and concern for the environment, but it is also a kind of energy use that will pay for itself in the long run.”
He adds that the installation has attracted comments from visitors to the church, and a post on Facebook also received some attention. The parish’s hope is that, in addition to the practical elements, the solar array may be a witness to locals about the church’s commitment to caring for the earth God has made.
“The idea was to move from a position where overseeing the Earth and everything in it means to use it, to one where we conserve it,” Mr Wilson says.
“We believe God has put humanity in place not just to benefit from the resources in the natural world, but to take care of them and use them wisely. So we hope this is not only an opportunity for us to actually do that in practice, but also share with those around us in a positive way what it means for us to follow Christ in terms of the environment.”