Increasing Solar Access for Faith Communities
Solar Faithful is a faith-based solar power initiative that envisions a world where congregations and faith-based nonprofits are leaders in clean energy adoption.
Our aim is to increase solar access so that congregations can faithfully lead the clean energy revolution.
We educate staff and congregants, helping to make the connection between how we use energy and how our faith calls us to heal and repair the world. Our educational offering builds an inclusive job training component to engage communities who have been historically excluded in the trades, including BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities and women.
Thasin Sardar, an Islamic Center of East Lansing Trustee, helped solarize the mosque in 2019.
Our goal is 50% of arrays will be installed at religious organizations that meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Have predominantly Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) leadership or membership
- Have predominantly low-income/low-wealth membership, and have an operating budget of $100,000 or less
- Are of a non-Christian, non-Unitarian faith tradition
- 10% savings on the electricity generated by the solar panels
- $0 upfront cost
- Maintenance is provided for 25 years
How long has Solar Faithful been around?
Solar Faithful was launched as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit by Michigan IPL, Chart House Energy, the Climate Witness Project, and other clean energy advocates early in 2023.
How many congregations have participated in Solar Faithful?
As of October 2023, we have completed 6 installations. We are currently in the planning process with over 60 additional interested organizations.
How are these solar projects financed?
There are 3 options:
- Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): Participating organizations sign a 25-year contract to purchase power generated by the solar array (which is owned by the investors) with an initial rate 10% lower than what they currently pay the utility. Operations and maintenance are provided by Solar Faithful.
- Direct Purchase: Participating organization purchases the system with any combination of donations, budget, and borrowing. Solar Faithful can help to identify low-interest lenders. Generally, the best economics for the organization entails more responsibility.
- Congregation-Supported Purchase: This model is similar to Direct Purchase but it allows members of the organization to invest in the project by loaning part or all of the purchase amount and earning interest on the loan.
The Refuge Church in Grandville, MI celebrated the installation its solar panels in April of 2023. Pastor Gerry Koning, when interviewed by FOX 17, expressed that Solar Faithful made going solar simple and affordable for the church:
"When we looked at it, doing it on our own, it was just, you know, insurmountable costs and things like that. And then I heard about Solar Faithful through our denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America. And we said, 'Let's look at this possibility,' because there would be no upfront costs at all for us."
I still have questions! Who can I talk to?
Kate Poirier published Sacred Spaces: St. Suzanne Our Lady Gate of Heaven in Blog 2023-08-22 11:08:53 -0400
Steve Wasko is the Program Director at St. Suzanne Our Lady Gate of Heaven in northwest Detroit's Cody Rouge neighborhood. He was recently able to share information on how St. Suzanne's serves its community, the parish focus on sustainability measures, and the benefit of funds received through the Sacred Spaces project.
The Blessing of the Rain Garden at St. Suzanne's is just one of the ways this Detroit parish shows focus on both environmental and spiritual practicesRead more
Here's what Executive Chairman Mark Crain had to say about the Muslim Center and its work, focus, and mission in Detroit.
The Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center is open nearly every day of the week serving the Detroit community.Read more
Kate Poirier published Inspiration from the past powers climate action in Ann Arbor in Blog 2023-06-02 17:14:01 -0400
First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor members Ruth Mohr and Sandy Simon present a Climate Hero Award to Ed Lynn in December 2022. Read more stories of Climate Heroes here.
When Don Levitt learned that over 50% of people in Washtenaw County "rarely or never" talked about the climate crisis (see the Yale Climate Opinion maps), he realized that he could do something to change that.
With funds from Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Michigan IPL offered a $500 gift to 3 houses of worship participating in our Energy Stewardship Webinar series.
Portage United Church of Christ (UCC) put this gift to work by replacing older, fluorescent tube lighting with bright, highly efficient LEDs!
The Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Schueneman enjoys her brightly lit office at Portage UCC.
“I am so happy to have these new, bright LED lights in my office! The previous lights had a yellow overcast that really dimmed the room; these have lightened my workspace. I’m also thankful that our congregation can be a part of faith communities’ efforts to care for our planet home. This is a small step, but a faithful one, and we hope it will continue us on our way.” – Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Schueneman
Joel Faber, Little Eden Facilities Manager, holds a new LED on the porch of one of the campground's cabins.
With 10 utility bills coming in every month, the operating costs of Little Eden Camp, located on the shores of Portage Lake in Onekama MI were astronomical. Currently covering 45 acres, this historic camp began in 1944 with a small group of men from Ohio stepping out in faith to purchase the then 10-acre property. Since that time, Little Eden’s footprint has grown, and the camp’s utility demands have grown along with it. Today there are over 45 structures at Little Eden; four of these are over 100 years old.
Visitors to Little Eden can easily see the reason for the name, but unlike its namesake, this Eden requires a great deal of effort to maintain and flourish. Creation care is at the heart of camp operations. Over the years, the staff has been very intentional at taking cost-effective measures to make Little Eden more energy efficient whenever the opportunity arose, however operating costs remained high.
Camp Director Wayne Faber learned about rebates for lighting through an email he had received from Michigan IPL, which provided the inspiration to proceed with the more substantial project of retrofitting 4 ft fluorescent tube lighting with T-LEDs.
A small army of volunteers worked together to retrofit the fixtures and install high-efficiency LEDs purchased through the Consumers Energy Instant Discount program.
The result? The camp's lights are brighter and eighty percent (80%) of project cost was covered by the rebates, and the camp's utilities bills reflect the difference. As great as that was, Little Eden was just getting started.
“Our desire is to continue to care for God’s Creation by being better stewards with our electricity consumption, reducing our impact on our world and in turn, saving the camp money on utility bills.”
- Wayne Faber, Camp Director
When the opportunity for a free Energy Assessment with a Consumers Energy Assessor came up, Wayne was glad to participate. The assessment involved a walkthrough of the entire property and free replacement of over 750 incandescent bulbs with 9-watt LEDs. Without the need to cover the purchase cost of these bulbs, it’s easy to see that Little Eden saved over $3,000 on just the bulbs alone.
We wanted a visible sign of our commitment to addressing climate change, as well as to be able to play an active role in educating our community about the benefits of technology in addressing climate issues. -Steve Bertman, member of Temple B'nai Israel in Kalamazoo
As the Detroit Auto Show is in full swing, Electric Vehicles (EVs) are more and more at the forefront, showing us that the transition to EVs is also in full swing. With the tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act that offer Americans incentives to purchase new and used electric vehicles, it is clear that Electric Vehicles are not only here to stay, but are beginning to make a major impact on the automotive industry, and hopefully, less impact on the climate.
Jennifer Odza, a member of Temple B'nai Israel (TBI) in Kalamazoo, charges her electric vehicle while at the synagogue.
And while a lack of charging stations has been one barrier to the expansion of electric vehicles here in Michigan, we are thankful to share that that does not need to be the case for much longer.Read more
Houses of worship in Michigan are encouraged to investigate the option of an EV charging station for their own locations. The purchase and installation of a charging station was shown to be very achievable through the inspiring work of Temple B’nai Israel in Kalamazoo, recipients of a Cool Congregations award earlier this year. Steve Bertman, professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at Western Michigan University, has helped paved the way for us to follow, through his experience at Temple B’nai Israel in Kalamazoo.