Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

They span the range of religions and faiths. New solar financing tools now enable houses of worship throughout California to go solar and reduce their energy expenses. Berkeley's Sun Light & Power has pioneered solar installations for non-profits and houses of worship in the Bay Area and throughout California.

Why houses of worship struggle to obtain solar energy

The ITC (investment tax credit) and depreciation (50% bonus for this year) that are available to tax-paying entities are not available to non-profits for solar energy. While churches struggle through this economic recession, oftentimes their highest operating cost is electricity. If they could go to solar electricity the savings would be substantial, but not if they have to come out of pocket with a cash purchase. Many churches want to go to solar, both to help the church operating costs and to help with sustainability for the planet - because the church model is give back to the community and to be good stewards of our resources, natural and otherwise.

There are no incentives available for them from the Fed Government, though there is a small CA rebate, and that's all. They want a way to finance their project. Sun Light & Power has developed a program that allows churches to take advantage of the tax incentives and benefit from the solar savings through Crowd funding, which helps the church and helps the church parishioners.

The new solar installation at NorthCreek Church in Walnut Creek, California

This new, 305 kW DC installation is comprised of 1,092 Suntech 280 solar modules. The estimated annual CO2 reduction from the installation is 573,406 lbs., with an estimated annual electricity production of 377,189 Kilowatt hours. This installation at the NorthCreek church in Walnut Creek, CA has offset 99% of their energy costs with a zero down, non-profit friendly lease.

Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

Talk about remote and off the grid. Tassajara Zen Mountain Center is located down a long, gravel road in the Carmel Valley inland from Big Sur.  This is the oldest Zen training center outside of Asia, and closely allied with the San Francisco Zen Center.  Its remote location definitely has its advantages. Away from the "busyness of civilization", Tassajara is known for the peace and quiet to find extreme inner peace, surrounded by only the sounds of nature where you can study, practice or train in Zen Buddhism.

Way back in the coastal California mountains, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center set out to install a photovoltaic solar system.  Their ground-mounted, off-grid, battery-based system has been built in two phases approximately 4 years apart.  The first phase of approximately 9 kW DC covered basic needs, but as the Center grew, they required the use of a generator more often than they desired.  In order to come closer to net zero in terms of supply, the Center contacted Sun Light & Power to design and commission Phase 2 - another 12 kW DC (bringing the total to approximately 21 kW DC) - to almost completely eliminate the need for their back-up generator.

Additional solar houses of worship (with other new installations pending) include:

St. Stephens Church, Orinda.

Zen Center, San Francisco

Christ the King Lutheran Church, Fremont, CA

First Chinese Baptist Church San Francisco

St. John's Episcopal Church Oakland

Greater Richmond Interfaith Program Richmond

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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