Lewes UU church adds solar panels to new sanctuary

August 21, 2016

Clean Energy USA of Rehoboth Beach installed solar panels on the roof of the new sanctuary belonging to the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware at 30486 Lewes-Georgetown Highway, Lewes. The system will offset 100 percent of the cost of UUSD's electricity for at least the next 20 years under the financing agreement with Clean Energy USA with no cost to UUSD for installation of the solar panels.

Clean Energy USA designed and installed the system as part of its outreach to nonprofit entities in the region. In return, UUSD will make ongoing payments equal to less than half of the cost of electricity if they were to have continued paying standard rates. The system will produce approximately $4,000 worth of electricity each year. This number will increase as electricity rates increase and will continue to cover UUSD's electric bill as long as they maintain their historical electrical usage.

The Rev. Paula Maiorano, UUSD interim minister, says UUSD members believe in the sacredness of all creation and are called to protect the earth. "Our new solar panels will help UUSD reduce its carbon footprint, and they are a tangible way for us to live our values," says Maiorano. "UUSD is an accredited Green Sanctuary, a formal recognition from our denomination about our service and dedication to the earth."

John Sykes, president of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light, whose mission is to provide a religious response to climate change, says they help their member congregations, their members and their communities lower their energy use, saving them money and helping the earth in the process. "We have been working hard to help folks save wasted energy. The next step for nonprofits to go solar had been challenging. Clean Energy USA has changed that equation and will enable many of our congregations, like UUSD, and partner nonprofits, take the next crucial step." UUSD is a member of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit organization, and Clean Energy USA also partners with them.

Delaware Interfaith Power and Light uses a two-tiered approach to energy savings they call Lean and Green. They first focus on reducing their energy use through conservation and building science. An energy audit will expose the best ways to focus their efforts to reduce energy use. The second is through solar energy, which will greatly reduce the remainder of the customers' electric bills.

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. A house or business uses that electricity, reducing the amount needed to be bought from utility companies. When a property cannot use all the power being created by the solar panels, the excess goes through the electric meter, spinning it backward at the same rate as it spins forward. If at the end of a billing period, the meter shows that more power has gone out through the meter than into the meter, a credit will show on that customer's electric bill.

Clean Energy USA is a member of the Schell Brothers family of companies. Schell Brothers finances the nonprofit projects Clean Energy USA installs. Participating nonprofits are expected to save over three times on electric bills versus what they pay for solar during the life of the system.

"This concept of helping nonprofits lower their energy expenses makes sense on many levels. They can devote more resources to their mission instead of worrying about their electric bills. It also gives them long-term stability knowing what their rates will be, even as rates rise for everyone else," said John Sertich, president of Clean Energy USA.

Part of the financing is paid for by Delmarva Power, a national leader in supporting renewable energy. It offers generous grants to nonprofit organizations to help pay for their system expenses.

In addition to nonprofits, Clean Energy USA also installs solar on businesses and residences. The combined savings for the more than 1,000 systems it has installed in Delaware to date, the estimated savings on electric bills will be well over $100,000,000. Those numbers only include the savings during the 25-year warranty period of the solar panels, not any additional savings that will be generated during their expected useful lifetime.