Trinity United Church in Elmira, Ontario, has taken an innovative approach to raising funds for its youth ministry programs – and with minimal labor and no price negotiations required, this fundraising method sure beats a bake sale: The church had a 54-panel photovoltaic (PV) system installed on the south-facing roof of its education wing.
The system, which is expected to be commissioned any day now, will sell power to the Ontario Power Authority through Ontario’s microFIT feed-in tariff program. The microFIT program allows Ontario residents and businesses to earn a guaranteed fixed rate for energy produced by renewable energy systems that “feed in” to the electricity grid. Along with solar, the microFIT program pays for energy produced from biomass, biogas, landfill gas, onshore wind and water power projects that are 10 kilowatts or smaller. Larger projects are also eligible for an FIT under a different rate structure. Backers say the program has contributed to steady job growth in the Canadian province’s clean energy sector.
The panels were installed by Ontario-based electrical contractor Arcadian Projects. The church was able to finance the $65,000 PV system through the United Church of Canada. Selling power at a rate of about $.80/kilowatt-hour, church member Miles Schwindt said that the church expects to recoup its investment in about 6-7 years, and raise about $10,000 over the course of its 20-year FIT contract.
With more solar panels appearing on home, business and farm properties throughout the area, Schwindt said the investment is a viable option for nonprofits like churches, as well. “The solar panels offer a decent return on investment, and an easy way to raise money for the church without having to go back to the same people all the time,” he said. “We wanted to find a way to invest in our youth and help the environment, and solar panels kind of went together on that.”