Friday, Jan. 18, 2013
Solar panels helps church save on utilities
Church member installs solar array at no cost
By Bethany Bashioum
Lord of Love Lutheran Church is becoming little “greener” thanks to one church member.
Alec Adolphson, 45, of Raymore, who is apart of the Belton church’s congregation, has a special interest in alternative energy.
The idea spurred during the fall of 2011 to try to make his church a more eco-friendly while saving the church some big bucks in their utility bills each month.
“Our pastor had been talking a few weeks earlier about how everybody should think about what they can do to help the community and the church using whatever skills that they have,” Adolphson said.
To himself, “I said, ‘I know how to install solar arrays.”
Adolphson first installed a 3,200 watt solar on his own Raymore home four years ago, cutting his electricity bill by 50 percent.
“I went to school for 40 hours on solar exploration, then trained myself by putting them up on my house,” he said.
He has since started his own part-time business, Heartland Solar, in addition to working full-time elsewhere.
The idea to fixate solar panels to the roof of the church came after Adolphson came across on a source that had very inexpensive solar panels available which meant the project could be done at a very low cost.
“The church had the perfect setup for solar panels on the gym roof,” he said. “It was a south facing roof, it didn’t have anything else on it, and it was a really big, metal roof. It was the perfect set-up for a solar array.”
In addition, Adolphson said he wanted the experience of doing a project of this caliber, so he got a bid on the discounted solar panels that had been purchased from a bankruptcy auction at .78 cents a watt.
“That is a very cheap,” he said. “A good price for them is $1.30 a watt.”
Adolphson said they were quality panels, the same ones that he installed on his own home.
He drew up an estimate, and soon realized that he could do the project for almost next to nothing, using a special refund incentive from KCP&L.
“It took a lot of convincing though,” Adolphson said.
He initially presented the idea to the board and later to church members.
“They all voted that they would like to do it,” he said.
There was one catch though, church members wanted to expand the project more than Adolphson had initially conceived.
“I had only a certain availability of panels available from the auction,” he said. “I had to go searching for more solar panels at discounted prices.”
Adolphson wouldn’t be able to do the project for free if he had to buy more panels at full price.
“I started looking for the same type of solar panel that other people had – maybe that they had bought from the same sale – and I found enough to finish the project,” he said.
In all, Adolphson purchased 108 solar panels, or 21,600 watts total. When he was all said and done, the panels averaged to be about $1 per watt.
“KCP&L has a program that came about a few years ago because of discussion resulting that they provide a certain percentage of renewable energy that they provide for their customers,” he said. “They have a program to help people install renewable energy. They can use solar arrays as part of their percentage and pay $2 a watt for however big your solar array is.”
Since KCP&L doesn’t issue their incentive until the project is complete, the church did have to get a loan to cover the cost of the solar panels, but was able to pay off the loan in a matter of a few months after they received $43,200 from the electric company.
“I had estimated it that with equipment that it was enough money to pay for all the materials because we were able to get the panels so cheap,” he said.
Adolphson recruited the help of a few guys from his church to do all the labor except for 15 hours of work for a licensed electrician to make the connection between the grid and the church building.
The installation involved simply using clamps that could bolt the panels to the roof without making any holes, Adolphson said.
The switch was flipped on Oct. 17, 2012.
“It was really cool to turn them on for the first time. I was at work and one of the guys that helped with the project happened to be at church when the power company came and put in a new meter. He was able to be there and turn everything on,” Adolphson said. “I was talking to him on the phone as he did it.”
That evening, the church was able to hold their weekly community meal using free energy.
“Everybody was really excited and happy to have them on there,” Adolphson said.
After four months of being in place, he said the church is saving about $250 month in utility costs.
Since turning it on, the church has produced more than 2.3 megawatt hours of electricity and has also reduced the carbon dioxide output associated with the church by 3,900 pounds.
“This solar array will produce about 75 percent of the church’s electricity,” Adolphson said.”Everyone in the church is very happy with the project and is excited to be positively impacting the environment, as well as saving money on power.”