The Wildwood Mennonite Church is going solar.
In recent months the congregation has added a 20-panel, 10-kilowatt solar system that the Saskatoon church hopes to cover around 60 per cent of their energy costs for the year.
The transition to solar makes the congregation the first Mennonite church in Saskatchewan to adopt the renewable energy source.
Wildwood joined the Mennonite Creation Care Network two-and-a-half years ago and after studying the network curriculum, a voluntary carbon tax amongst members was brought up to fund the solar panels.
Ultimately through a unanimous decision, the members decided to purchase the panels without waiting for the tax fund to accumulate enough capital.
“We were given approval in principle to raise funds above our budget for this project,” church member Wayne MacDonald said. “It came about very quickly and captured people’s imaginations and it seemed like a no brainer thing to do.”
Wildwood shelled out roughly $20,000 for the panels. The church took advantage of SaskPower’s net metering program that reduced costs by a one-time 20 per cent rebate. With the rebate, owners are responsible to install their own system and have an electrical inspection conducted in addition to a bi-directional meter being installed.
“The number of people installing solar on their homes and commercial businesses is steadily rising and SaskPower reports a big uptake in activity over the last three to four years,” Peter Prebble, with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, said.
“The cost of solar power is dropping significantly so that’s making installation a lot more attractive.”
Prebble attributes innovation in the field has reduced the cost of solar panels by 75 per cent in a 10-year period. He estimates homeowners face an initial $15,000 to $24,000 investment for the solar-powered panels with energy savings paying off the purchase in 15 to 18 years.
“For anyone planning to stay in their home for a while it becomes a very attractive investment and, of course, everything else beyond that you’re making money,” Prebble said.
Cutting energy costs wasn’t the church’s sole motivation, according to MacDonald.
“We have a value, there’s a strong value in this church and Mennonite churches, in general, to care for this creation, this cosmos, this planet and so this was a natural outgrowth of those values.”
Wildwood is anticipating a 10-year payback timeframe on the panels.
“It makes good sense not only environmentally it makes sense economically as well.”