Did you know that Bethel has a solar cluster, also known as a solar garden, on our roof? What is this? It is a grouping of solar panels that are connected together, and then connected to the broader electrical grid of our neighborhood, city, and state, and the national grid. Let's take a closer look at what the solar garden on our roof really means for Bethel and why this is such an important part of our environmental stewardship mission. Keep reading below...
Why does a church want to have solar panels?
Bethel chose to be the host of this solar garden because we believe it is our mission to be responsible stewards of the land, air, and natural world we live in. By hosting a clean energy generation system, we are able to be part of a green solution that supplies energy that would otherwise be generated with "dirtier" methods. The fact that we have great exposure to the south sun on our flat roofs makes us an ideal candidate for this system. We are host to 152 panels as part of the system, and it is rated to generate 40kw/h of power at peak.
STATS: 40kw/hour at Peak
TO DATE (early 2022): the system has generated 113.39mw/h of power
(1mw(megawatt) = 1000kw (kilowatt)
Does Bethel own the solar garden on the roof?
Interestingly the solar garden on Bethel's roof is a co-op, meaning it is a community solar project. Bethel is one of the owners but many of our neighbors and members at Bethel also bought into the system when it was installed. That means it is jointly owned by many people, and the power that the system generates helps offset power usage in a range of places near Bethel.
How much power does the system generate for Bethel?
Bethel's electricity needs fluctuate throughout the year. The solar garden's generating capacity changes throughout the year too. Long summer days with more direct sunlight make solar production more efficient and also provide greater daily output. But the system generates power even in the winter. When we compare Bethel's yearly electrical consumption with our share of power produced, about half of our needs are supplied by solar energy.
Does snow stick to the solar panels?
Yes, snow will stick to the panels for a period but it tends to melt off quickly, and the angle of the panels helps the snow slide off too. Also because the panels are elevated, the snow is less likely to pile up around them, so it is not a huge issue. And because they are not the only source of power for the church, it is fine to have good days and bad days.
What happens to the extra power?
As you might have guessed, there are times when the power generated exceeds what is needed. That is why a system like this is connected to the national grid. That extra power is part of a much larger generating plan. It is fed into the grid, purchased or used by others, and distributed by the power company. In a sense, think of the power meter running backward at times. The owners of the system get credits for that power that is purchased by the power company, and it is offset on their bill in contrast to power they have used from the power company at night, or during high use times.
We are extremely proud of the fact that we are able to be part of a green solution that helps reduce our carbon electricity usage. The sun's energy is free, and what better use of that space on our roof than to generate electricity?