By Kristine Coman – Taken from Hilltop Action Journal, June-July 2021
As you may know, Shiloh Baptist Church won a $50,000 Grant from the Evergreen Options Program to help with the purchase and installation of on-site renewable energy projects. Shiloh chose Sphere Solar Energy the only minority-owned solar contractor in the region to lead the project and construct a 19.78-kilowatt solar photo-voltaic installation on the church roof that will reduce the church’s electricity spent for power and warmth. Shiloh sees this as a grassroots solution to reduce carbon emissions. Are you wondering what this solar installation will achieve for the building and environment? It will cover over 50% of the church’s electrical use and is the equivalent to growing 4,012 tree seedlings for 10 years.
I heard that Shiloh was hosting a Solar Energy 101 Workshop outdoors at the Church and decided to find out more about this grassroots project. I spoke with Sedonia Young, a member of Shiloh, who asked if we could provide outreach to get youth to attend to learn about solar career exploration. HAC provided community outreach and offered $25 VISA gift cards for youth in attendance.
It was a perfect evening for an outdoor workshop: partly sunny and breezy. Community members met Edwin Wanji, CEO of Sphere Solar Energy and watched a demonstration on how sunlight turns into electricity. Edwin explained out Washington weather is actually perfect for solar panels because of our cool, sunny days, vs. say hot sunny days in Texas where extreme heat reduces the effectiveness of the panels. Shiloh will have 46 panels on their roof – on a sunny day they will produce 5 times the energy they need for that day. Shiloh will have a 10 year maintenance package for the solar energy system. Edwin said the panels will last until the roof needs replaced – plus they will not need to be cleaned due to rainy weather (does it rain that much here? – yes, it does…in Eastern WA they need to clean the dust off the panels regularly).
Extra energy produced by the panels goes to TPU as will appear as ‘credits’ on Shiloh’s energy bill that the church can use in the winter to offset their energy use. If Shiloh decides to install back up batteries, the power would stay on during a power outage. Edwin talked about other measures Shiloh can take to further reduce their energy consumption, like switching lights to LED, or putting a timer on motion sensors.
We talked about how Edwin switched his home systems to all electric to take advantage of cheap energy. He mentioned that Tacoma is phasing out new commercial construction with natural gas within the next 5 years and urging new construction to install green energy. Edwin said the 2 big pictures for Tacoma are that green energy career and apprenticeship opportunities are really opening up now; and, that neighbors can form a collective for solar energy power. It’s still pretty expensive for a single home to convert – about $15,000 to 30,000 before tax credits.
Shiloh contracted with Front and Centered to help the congregation understand the impacts of environmental justice and health solutions in the community. They held two workshops and determined that the community is not aware of opportunities and resources available; and, that we need to get involved to know what is out there and how we can benefit from what is available. Shiloh Baptist members appreciate Front and Centered for coming into the community and encouraging them to step outside the box and aim high. I spoke to Aurora Martin about how there are still grants available for green energy projects – reach out to her at [email protected] to find out more.
Shiloh’s Solar Energy 101 Worship was great. I learned a lot about solar energy and was surprised that Western Washington’s cool sunny days were perfect for solar panels. I was not surprised that solar energy system’s high cost keeps it out of range for most home owners which is why organizations like Shiloh need to lead the way to a healthier future for everyone. Thank you, Shiloh!
Feel free to reach out to Shiloh Baptist Church about their solar project at (253) 272-4749. They are located on the Hilltop at 1211 S. I Street. Visit their website at https://shilohbaptist. org/.
Edwin Wanji, Founder and CEO or Sphere Solar Energy, can be contacted at (206) 371-5809 or at [email protected] spheresolarenergy.com. Find out more about Sphere Solar Energy at https://spheresolarenergy.com/.
Reach out to Front And Centered at (206) 487-4303 or visit their website at https://frontandcentered.org/.