Hope comes in many sizes and colors these days. And although it is a four-letter word, it can also be spelled in five letters: SOLAR. It’s not every church in south Minneapolis that invested in solar energy right as the pandemic hit, and the presence of our solar panels has not only given us hope but has actually encouraged a few new members.
There are several ways that a community can step out on the climate justice issue and work to get itself off the grid, so to speak. Judson Church on 41st and Harriet Avenue has chosen to install 140 solar panels, which are now starting to make a difference. As we gain a little history with the panels fully installed and connected to Xcel Energy, we begin to learn about our energy savings. Here are some statistics and lessons covering a 60-day period from mid-February to mid-April of this year:
• Snow on the flat panels makes a huge difference, and although winters can be bright, leafless times, intermittent snowfalls make a negative difference, of course.
• During the summers, we expect to generate 8000 or 9000 kilowatt hours monthly. In the snowy winter month of February/March, that figure was only 3986 kilowatt hours of energy.
• The church uses about 21,000 kilowatt hours of electricity during a comparative 60-day period. We hope to generate about one-third of that with the solar panels, or better.
• We also receive a dollar-credit for the energy that the panels put back on the main grid during any given period. For this 60-day timeframe, that credit was $1,034.
• We will soon have live-display software that can teach anyone in the Judson foyer about the solar panels and the day-by-day impact of our system.
• As of June 1, 2022, we will surpass 70,000 kWh generated by this system – that is a lot of carbon saved!
Judson Church has a small working committee that calls itself the “Environmental/Climate Justice Team.” We are also a designated “climate justice congregation” with Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light. Through the climate justice team, we attempt to educate ourselves and any in the congregation ready to learn more about climate and to encourage action steps that are personal or organizational. The solar panels were a definite step in that direction in 2020.
But there is a history of environmental awareness at Judson. Back in 2019, the church was awarded a grant to develop an organics recycling program now in place for our congregation’s use and for the Judson Preschool well known in our community. Other environmental actions include a beautiful rain garden (created in previous years) to lessen the amount of rainwater that goes into the city system, bike racks installed along the boulevards near our building, speakers and other educational offerings for church members, and ways to connect to the neighborhood such as through the “Open Streets” on Lyndale that was held in June.
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