Here Comes the Son - Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church Goes Solar

By Kimberly Knowle-Zeller, 
Pastor, Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church, Sedalia, Missouri

The idea of going solar began with an observation and a question. 

During the monthly council meeting, a member said, "You know I drove by this church the other day and they had solar panels. I talked to a member there and they only had positive things to say. Is this something we might consider?"

And so began the dream, the vision, and the hope for not only the community at Christ and Trinity Lutheran but for the larger Sedalia community and for generations to come. After that first meeting other members became excited at the prospect of installing solar panels at the church. Many had observed the large solar panels at the neighboring Methodist church and were intrigued.

This could be a possibility for Christ and Trinity, some shared.

This could save money on our electric bill, some hoped.

This is what we are called to do as stewards of God's creation, some echoed.

A phone call was made and folks gathered to meet with the local solar company to begin the conversation. As the pastor with very little real-life knowledge of solar, I enlisted the help of a retired civil engineer who had been recommended by a colleague. Lynn proved to be a valuable gift to the congregation and to our learning. 

Lynn gave us a lesson in Solar 101 and his passion and enthusiasm was infectious. He encouraged us to consider the prospect of solar not only for the church but for our homes. He shared statistics regarding solar usage in Germany and America and how much further Germany is than America. He shared about the rebate system and the inner workings of dealing with Kansas City Power and Electric. He explained in as understandable a way as possible how solar works.

Throughout the summer, the summer of Son, a solar committee was formed and met with different companies to receive bids. Our understanding of solar and the importance of caring for creation began to rise. Newsletter articles, one-on-one conversations, emails, announcements, educational forums - the word on solar was spreading and the word was calling forth the light. We all wanted to be a part of ensuring a home for generations to come by reducing our carbon footprint.

Thanks to the work of our solar committee, who spent hour upon hour comparing bids, asking questions, researching, visiting businesses in town with solar panels, and sharing in understandable ways with others, the congregation fully supported moving forward with the purchase and installation of solar panels. A congregational vote was called and a unanimous vote received. In further affirmation of the congregation's commitment to our community, financial support for over the total cost has already been pledged and received.

Throughout the fall, the congregation saw part of the roof transformed with solar panels thanks to the work of Brightergy, a Missouri clean-energy company. From the time of signing the contract to finish, the project took roughly six months. On December 16th, the final approval came through and we were able to flip the switch to solar energy.

Christ and Trinity has a 12 kilowatt solar energy system, estimated to produce 15,000 kilowatt hours of solar electricity annually. The church is estimated to save $60,000 of the 25 year economic life of the system. In terms of environmental equivalencies, offsetting 23,332 pounds of CO2 is like eliminating the emissions caused by burning 1,186 gallons of gas each year, or by the annual planting of 271 tree seedlings, grown for 10 years.

A member of the community shared, "As a Christian community we are committed to serving God and serving our neighbors - near and far. Moving towards solar electricity is one way we are letting the Son shine."