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Solar Panels will generate 30 percent of the congregation’s energy needs

An aerial view of the 199 solar panels installed on the roof of the educational building. The panels already have generated a lot of conversation in the community, which was one of the goals of the project. “We hope to encourage broader interest in the many different forms of environmental stewardship available to us,” says Pastor Rhodes. “There are a lot of flat roofs in Salisbury .. and way too many church dinners served on Styrofoam plates. Imagine the potential!”

There’s an old song from the ’80s that includes the lyrics, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

Mark Ritchie just might be donning sunglasses these days. His family recently purchased 199 solar panels, which have been installed on the roof of the educational building. When they go operational soon, the panels are expected to generate 30 percent of the church’s energy needs.

The new system uses a net meter arrangement, so the church is billed on the difference of how much electricity it buys, minus what it generates, Ritchie says. “I’m glad to get it this close to being live.”

The panels were purchased at the end of 2015, but the roof needed to be repaired, thus delaying the installation process of the panels.

Even with the delay, he says, it’s a win-win situation. “This is environmentally the right thing to do, and it protects God’s resources. Solar power is always available. It’s a waste not to use it.”

Ritchie’s family will recoup parts of the project through solar tax credits and leasing equipment. The panels, visible from parts of Council Street, have a 25-year life span, after which the church can choose to replace them, as the technology will be improved and they’ll likely generate even more power, Ritchie says.

“It’s a real benefit to the church,” says Mike Agee, who oversaw construction of the new building, which was constructed to be energy efficient.

The church is doing other things to be a good environmental steward, Agee says, including recycling, and the transition to paper products from Styrofoam. The new building uses LED lighting — which uses one-third the energy of fluorescent lights — with plans to purchase more throughout campus.

“Mark has been a driver throughout this process,” Agee notes. “It’s no doubt a big savings to the church, but it also just feels good. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

-By Susan Shinn Turner

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