When Christ Episcopal Church’s “Earth Team” began meeting last year, members explored different ideas about projects that benefit the environment.
From food sustainability to glass recycling to solar power, “the list of ideas grew,” said attendee Hap Ridgway. “The theme of the sun immediately rose to the top as something effective.”
About a year later, in mid-October, the solar plan came to fruition when a crew from CE Solar installed 22 solar panels on the south-facing slope of the church roof. The church’s rector, the Rev. Mary Caucutt, said the system was connected to the city’s system on Monday, Oct. 17.
“Renewable energy is a way to become better stewards of God’s good creation,” he said. “I’m very happy that the solar panels will offset our electricity use.”
Earth Team has raised $44,000 for the project, which will pay for itself over 18 to 22 years, Caucutt said. That break-even point occurs at the end of the panels’ life, when they begin to operate less efficiently.
He participated in the formation of the Earth Team during the fall of 2022, the annual Ministry Fair, which featured various programs of the church. “Mary wanted something about the environment because ‘it’s about creation,'” Ridgway said.
The group sponsored a series of community dinner programs during Lent last spring, and one of the first speakers, a representative from CE Solar, spoke about solar renewable energy. After studying the church’s location and electrical bills, the company offered 22 panels for the roof.
“Then it was a matter of raising money,” Ridgway said.
The church donated $20,000 of its endowment as a challenge grant, and the vestry chipped in $4,000, Caucutt said. “Amazingly, we raised the money in 5-6 weeks,” he said.
Ridgway estimated that about 45 people have donated to the cause, including “very small gifts.” “It really made me happy. It was heartwarming, so much support.
“More people are interested in the landscape.”
Among the benefits, based on a preliminary calculation of the 27 panels, would be 17,700 kilowatt hours of production, requiring 15,000 pounds of coal, and keeping 23,100 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or the equivalent of about 300 carbon sinks. trees, Ridgway said.
“The trick is net metering,” Caucutt said.
If the solar system produces more than it needs, the excess feeds into the grid and becomes a loan it can draw on if the system can’t meet demand. “The network is becoming our battery,” he said.
In an annual accounting report on Dec. 31, the city of Cody will finalize the input and withdrawal, pay 10 cents on the dollar for any excess and reset the account, Caucutt said. However, in theory, the array of solar panels is designed so that there will be no credit at the end of the year, he noted.
Another issue was the placement of the panels. Although lower locations are available, Caucutt said, the church chose the most efficient location — the roof. It also overlooks the most visible, the Yellowstone Highway and its heavy summer traffic.
“Rather than hiding our light under a bushel, we wanted to share the good news about solar energy,” he said, “we can let the sun shine through the roof. It’s a way to encourage others to be better stewards.”
Ridgway added that Earth Team is showing how people can help the environment through data programs and the solar project.
“Everything we’ve learned over the past year, from the national news to what we’ve seen with our own eyes in northwest Wyoming, tells us that extremes and the pace of climate change are worse than predicted.” he said. “Anything we can do as individuals or as small groups like churches or communities like Cody to reduce our carbon footprint will help.”