Wind-powered church practices what it preaches

In her musings, writer and poet Janet Frame presciently noted: "Electricity, the peril the wind sings to in the wires on a gray day."

With mounting concern over sourcing energy, groups are pooling their resources to fund alternative energy projects. And religious organizations, many with large and diverse memberships, are no exception. Case in point: Last November the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor installed a 2.5KW wind turbine system in its parking lot, together with 48 solar panels on the church roof that generate an additional 10.8 kilowatts of energy. Together, the installations are expected to save the church up to 20% on its annual energy costs, according to Dave Friedrichs, chair of the congregation's renewable energy committee and managing member of Homeland Builders of Michigan, LLC.

Friedrichs says after the church moved to a 45-acre site on the south side of Ann Arbor, members were focused on how best to use the land. The impetus behind the renewable energy projects was a result of "..the raising of the concerns of the congregation in general about energy issues and… our desire to increase sustainability and lessen the dependence on fossil fuels."

The $30,000 wind turbine portion of the project was funded almost entirely through the sale of personalized paving stones to be used in a renewable energy plaza on the premises -- scheduled for completion by Earth Day, April 22.

Next in the energy pipeline, although no start date has been set yet, will be an amping up of the solar panel installation to accommodate up to 100KW of energy generation, Friedrichs says. The church is a member of Michigan Interfaith Power & Light, a non-profit coalition supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the faith community statewide.

While it's not at all unusual for faith-based organizations to install solar panels on their properties, wind turbines are a rarity due to the need for open space and good elevation. This wind turbine sits atop an 85-foot monopole in the parking lot, an open area at an elevation of just over 900 feet. The wind activity is good, Friedrichs notes. Energy production and cost savings statistics are available on the congregation's website.

"[People] are able to have a real test case right here in Ann Arbor where they can watch and listen to a wind turbine. It's doing its educational job," he explains. "It's an item of curiosity and it's almost taken for granted now... People don't even notice it. They park their cars and go about their business. It's part of the anatomy of the church...parking lot now."

Source: Dave Friedrichs, chair of First Unitarian Universalist of Ann Arbor's renewable energy committee and managing member of Homeland Builders of Michigan, LLC
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Photo of
First Unitarian Universalist of Ann Arbor's wind turbine courtesy of Dave Friedrichs

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