Extending the sun

church_solar_gardenBY ELAINE KLAASSEN

Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church is the first community of faith in Minnesota to host a solar garden (a solar array) that feeds directly into the Xcel Energy electric grid.
Bethel’s pastor, Brenda Froisland, says about the project, “When we say we nourish God’s creation, we really mean it!”
Eighty-seven solar panels will be installed on the roof of Bethel’s education building (hopefully by the end of this year). According to Steve Coleman of MN Community Solar, the local clean energy company working with Bethel, “It [the garden] will add to the overall amount of solar energy in Xcel’s system.” (Solar contributes to the renewable energy portfolio that Xcel is mandated by law to provide.)
To pay for the installation and maintenance of the solar garden, subscriptions are available to individuals and organizations. Subscriptions are for 25 years and are sold in units called “leaves,” explained Dana Hallstrom of MN Community Solar. The smallest subscription is one “leaf,” which costs $954. In return for the upfront investment, the subscription holder will receive anywhere from 3 to 10% credit on their electric bill for 25 years. This is a great way for individuals to help bring renewable energy to the neighborhood and reap the benefits without having to personally maintain and install a system in their own home. Subscrip-tions went on sale first to members of Bethel congregation, and on June 2 became open to members of the Bancroft Neighborhood Association, which has its office at the church. At the end of June the general public will be able to buy “leaves.”

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