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Solar make dollars and sense for church

The future is bright at Trinity United Church. This week, the church on Arthur Street in Elmira underwent a dramatic facelift with the installation of a 10-kilowatt inverter solar panel system on the roof The project consists of 54 panels and thanks to a 20-year contract under the Ontario government’s MicroFIT program that pays 80 cents per kilowatt hour, the church hopes to generate up to $10,000 in revenue annually.

“Our church is expanding, especially the youth program, and we were looking for a way to get some stable funding,” said Miles Schwindt, a member of Trinity’s congregation and the man who, along with Chris Moore, spearheaded the idea of putting solar panels on the steel roof of the children’s wing of the church.

SUNNY OUTLOOK Miles Schwindt is confident that the new solar panels at Elmira’s Trinity United Church, which are to be installed on the roof of the children’s wing visible behind him, will help boost revenues and provide a brighter future for the church.

“This lines up with our goals because we’re investing in our youth, and we’re helping the environment as well and bringing in some money.”

The church approached three local companies for quotes on the project, with Kitchener’s Arcadian Projects chosen to complete the installation, which is estimated to cost a total of $65,000.

About three-quarters of the funding came via a loan from the United Church of Canada, with the other quarter drawn from the church’s reserve fund.

Their goal is to have their loan repaid within the next five years, allowing plenty of time for the panels to generate income for the church under the contract.

Unfortunately the rain this past week has delayed the installation of the panels, but the church hopes to have the power flowing within the next two weeks after an inspection from the Electrical Safety Authority.

Schwindt said there were some reservations over the technology among some members of the congregation, specifically that the roof might leak, but after completing the necessary paperwork and submitting their proposal to Ontario Hydro in March, Schwindt said the project received final approval from church members in May.

The idea for installing the solar panels initially came to Schwindt while driving the countryside and visiting farms for his job as a procurement manager for Maple Leaf foods. He saw how solar panels had become a very popular form of revenue generation for farmers, and thought the technology could be applied to the church as well.

“It’s a no-brainer, if someone has a flat roof facing south and without trees behind it, you should be putting solar panels on your roof,” said Schwindt, who also has a 10-kilowatt system on the roof of his Waterloo home.

“The payback is there and they do an excellent job.”

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