Solarize Ohio is a project led by a dedicated team of Episcopalians united around a vision of bringing an affordable renewable energy source to Episcopal properties across Ohio through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). A PPA allows parishes to access and install solar power systems with no upfront cost and empowers congregations to care for God’s creation more fully; caring for creation in all aspects of our lives is a core tenet in living out the call of Becoming Beloved Community.

There is still time to sign up or to learn more about the solar installation, which would occur at no cost to churches. Congregations simply need to commit to renewable energy and Beloved Community.

Solar electric systems are important as we focus on Becoming Beloved Community

Solarize Ohio links directly to Goal #2 of the Episcopal Vision for Creation Care. The goal states  “Stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable victims of the impact of climate change – particularly women, poor people, and people of color – as part of seeking the liberation and flourishing of all God’s people.”

African Americans, both middle class and poor, are far more likely to live in areas of high air pollution than whites of the same economic status. This fact has been well documented before the COVID 19 pandemic. A recently completed study has concluded that only a small increase in long term exposure to fine particulate matter correlates to an 8% increase in death rates from the coronavirus (https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/covid-pm).  Fine particulate matter is a product of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. It is also well documented that other products of burning fossil fuel (Nitrous oxides, sulfur oxides, and carbon dioxide) contribute to global warming and climate change as well as increased levels of asthma and other respiratory diseases especially in children.  According to the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, approximately 60% of our region’s electric power comes from burning fossil fuels. So when a congregation in the Diocese of Southern Ohio participates in the Solarize Ohio campaign and has a solar system installed, there is a reduction in air pollution overall. This reduction helps to reduce the occurrence of respiratory disease for those who live in our inner cities, especially African Americans.

While the final size of solar systems installed as a part of Solarize Ohio will have a small impact on the overall use of fossil fuels in our state, the physical witness of solar systems on our properties is an outward and visible sign to our neighborhoods of the Episcopal Church’s commitment to respond to racial injustice and grow a community of reconcilers, justice-makers and healers.

Who are our partners in bringing this project to life?

Over the past 10 months, the Solarize Ohio team has been working to determine the best structure and process to develop the PPA and bring solar power systems to church properties. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, work on this project has continued unimpeded. Through an extensive review and reference-checking process, we have selected Fellowship Energy Finance (FEF, www.fellowshipenergy.com) as our partner to develop the financing and legal structure of our PPA.

FEF has spent the last several years developing a program to finance Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) specifically for the Episcopal Church. After successfully piloting their program in the Diocese of Virginia, they received the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Award for “Best Nonprofit Program” as well as the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s “3i Award” for “Best Community/Nonprofit Program”, both in 2019. FEF offers flexible financing options that will result in optimum electricity costs to participating churches plus the opportunity for churches to own the solar equipment in 6-10 years. Through thorough reference checks, we confirmed that FEF has the requisite professionalism, flexibility, and commitment to help us successfully solarize Ohio.

How do interested congregations move forward?

The first step is to reach out to Solarize Ohio directly by email or to any of our members individually. We will guide you through next steps. We also encourage you to invite a member of Solarize Ohio to meet with your vestry and answer questions about the PPA. Also, determine a point person or core team to be your parish-level “champions” to be the main point of contact with Solarize Ohio and FEF and help build momentum at the ground level. After that, a member of Solarize Ohio will partner with you to review your electric use history and determine an optimally-sized system for your site.

Taking this step does not commit your parish; rather, it means you’d like to find out more information to determine whether renewable energy through solar panels is a possibility through this PPA; committing to the PPA occurs once a parish learns from FEF the final cost of future solar electricity.

The Solarize Ohio team looks forward to working with all congregations in the diocese and bringing this vision of renewable energy to life.

Solarize Ohio: solardiosoh@gmail.com