Local houses of worship had a chance to learn about eco-friendly projects undertaken by local faith communities during a "solar open house" in December, and a "Solar Marketplace" this weekend will help them figure out how to finance their own.
The Solar Marketplace is being organized by Solar Faithful, an initiative from the city of Ann Arbor’s energy office in partnership with Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, which aims to promote solar projects in houses of worship. The city's climate action plan calls for reducing community-wide emissions by 25 percent before 2025, and as part of that plan, the city has set a goal of generating 2.4 megawatts of solar energy each year. With 400 houses of worship in the greater Ann Arbor area, the city believes that making houses of worship more energy-efficient will help achieve those goals.
The marketplace, scheduled from 2-4 p.m. March 11 at Campus Chapel, 1236 Washtenaw Court in Ann Arbor, will host eight to 10 solar installers who consistently get high customer ratings, including two or three with experience in financing for solar projects.
"Neither the city nor IPL are advocating for any one vendor," says Jane Vogel, past board president of Michigan IPL and current liaison to the Solar Faithful team. "We're simply facilitating the process of enabling houses of worship to talk with solar installers."
Currently, Vogel says, the main two strategies for financing a solar panel installation on a house of worship involves fundraising through a capital campaign or taking out a loan, but Michigan IPL and Solar Faithful are interested in helping houses of worship find creative ways to finance solar projects.
For instance, a 30 percent tax credit for solar projects is available to residential homeowners, but nonprofits and churches can't take advantage of that tax credit.
"But that opens the door to thinking about collaborating with an investor who can harvest the tax credits while helping a house of worship," Vogel says.
Houses of worship that aren't yet ready to fund a large solar project can still make their facilities more energy-efficient, and attendees can learn about how to do that during the event as well. A program offered in conjunction with Michigan Saves and DTE Energy provides zero percent financing on energy-efficiency measures, and more details about that program will be available during the solar marketplace.
"It's important to get the energy load of the building lowered through good energy-efficiency actions so that, by the time you're thinking of installing solar, you'll have lower energy use demand in the building," Vogel says.
While the March 11 presentation will be geared toward faith communities, the marketplace is free and open to all area residents and nonprofit organizations. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to Jennifer Young, project manager with Michigan IPL, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (248) 463-8811.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at email@example.com.