Two-fold sustainability at St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church

Glenda Eden
St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church

Two-fold sustainability at St. Matthew
Solar panels on the roof of St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church in Ingleside began putting green energy into the provincial grid in mid-September. At the Sunday Service on Oct. 2 project partners surprised the congregation with a $5000 donation to put back in the community. From left David Arenburg, vice president of Canadian Solar Solutions, Marc Myers, Saturn Powers' Eastern Ontario account manager, Daniel Saumure, Senior account manager with Canadian Solar Solutions and Reid McIntyre, Clerk of Session at St.Matthew's with minister Harold Kouwenberg.

Ingleside - Oct. 12, 2011 - Sustainability was not a concept lost on the congregation of St. Matthew’s Presbyterian Church in Ingleside. With many churches struggling to cover maintenance and upkeep they welcomed an opportunity to help secure their own sustainability with a solar energy project under the Ontario MicroFit program.

Roof-mounted solar panels over the church sanctuary are now harvesting the sun and putting clean, renewable electric power into the provincial grid. Manufactured by Ottawa-based Canadian Solar Solutions, the panels were installed by Saturn Power of New Hamburg, Ontario, an integrator and developer of large and small-scale renewable energy technologies and projects across the province.

Saturn Power finished installation of the 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system, capable of producing approximately 13,000 kWh of electrical power a year in mid- August. The panels were officially connected to the provincial energy grid in mid-September.

Moved by St. Matthew’s sense of community, environmental consciousness and the kindness and generosity of the congregation, Saturn’s Eastern Ontario account manager Marc Myers went looking for some small way to show his gratitude.

And, not unlike the story of the loaves and fishes, a request for a modest token of appreciation grew into a sizable donation to the church from the project partners. “It’s surprising what can happen if you just ask,” says Myers.

Saturn Power and Canadian Solar Solutions each contributed $2,500 to help St. Matthew’s continue their work in the community. A cheque for the $5000 donation was presented to a somewhat surprised but grateful congregation by the project partners following the Sunday service on October 2.

How the gift will be used has yet to be determined but Reid McIntyre, Clerk of Session at St. Matthew’s, says the church has a couple of on-going projects including a dish-washer for the kitchen and a nursery for its young families.

“I’m also grateful to the congregation for being so supportive of this green energy project and accepting of the new innovation and technology”, adds McIntyre.

Also proud of the congregation’s initiative is Harold Kouwenberg, minister at St.Matthew’s. “This solar energy project makes such a positive statement to our community, demonstrates an attitude of sound environmental stewardship and returns a healthy dividend to the church,” he says. Still one of only a few Presbyterian churches to back a green energy program, Kouwenberg looks forward to sharing their experience and endorsing the program with other churches within the Presbytery. Churches are excellent candidates for roof-mounted solar panels, says Myers, not only structurally, for their large expansive roofs, but also for the sustainable revenue they generate. These projects offer a steady income over 20 years, less a five to six year pay back period. St. Matthew’s $62,000 investment should see yearly revenue of $9,000 to $11,000, he says.

As well as the financial rewards for installing the system, the church is also producing enough energy to power about two homes. This saves close to 10 tonnes of CO2 being produced, says Myers, and is particularly valuable on those hot summer days when it is needed most.

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