St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church proudly adopted solar electricity which now powers their facility, including the church itself and the adjacent International School for Peace preschool. Their main motivation to install solar power on the church was to uphold their vision statement, which is “to inspire and guide each other to an awakened life by engaging with each other, our community, the Earth and the Divine.” According to Mari Sorri, the Chair of Trustees at St. Francis, the vision statement and the new solar system “reflect in part our deep commitment to the Earth.” Sustainability is built into their practice as “we believe that the Earth and Nature is a sacred text, like the Bible and other inspired texts.” St. Francis celebrated their newest commitment to God and the environment on July 1st with a blessing ceremony for their solar panels.
Watch the AZPM piece on the St. Francis solar project here.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, of the Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church, commended St. Francis, saying, “The use of solar panels to provide nearly all of the church's electrical needs demonstrates true care of God's creation, not to mention a great financial savings for years to come! I am thrilled with the outstanding example that St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church has given all of us.”
St. Francis in the Foothills has long been devoted to sustainable practices. Not only do they have recycling programs and use efficient appliances, but the campus also practices water harvesting for use in irrigating their predominately native plants landscape. They also recently installed two Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations through the Federal Government's stimulus program. These will pull their power from the solar panels, giving EV owners clean electricity and transportation.
St. Francis's solar system is unique because of the beautiful design of the bifacial solar panels that are used to frame the church's entrance. The panels allow light to filter through the shade structure, and also collect light and energy from both sides. By using these modules on the canopy, the church is making a statement: solar is not only useful, it is also beautiful.
Installed by Technicians for Sustainability (TFS), the solar system consists of arrays on many of the Church's complex of buildings, and also a shade canopy across the entrance to the church. 192 high-efficiency SunPower modules are arranged on the roof while 60 Sanyo bifacial panels take center stage on the canopy at the church entrance. The 70kW system will provide 77% of the facility's electricity, producing approximately 10,500 kWh each month.
The solar system will allow the church to reduce its impacts on the Earth by keeping 25,000 lbs of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each month, over 11,000 lbs of coal from being burned and over 5,500 gallons of water being consumed (for electricity production) each month. Solar is also helping the church save money: over the course of 20 years, the church will see a cumulative savings of $238,000.