WINDSOR, NS – After nearly halving their energy costs after moving to a new location, the congregation of Windsor Baptist Church focused on what more could be done to reduce their impact on the environment.
It is now about to become a net zero object.
The Rev. Rob Heffernan, lead pastor of Windsor Baptist Church, said he paid upwards of $25,000 a year in heating bills when he was housed in an 1898 building on King Street. In November 2019, the church held its last service in historic downtown Windsor, decommissioned the building, and moved to a more modern church, 219 Payzant Dr.
The move has cut bills by about half, he said.
“We believe that God cares for the earth and we should be stewards of it,” Heffernan said.
He said the congregation saw the effects of the climate crisis and wanted to do their part to make a difference. Church officials began looking at incorporating more green energy into the church. The concept of using solar energy came up and they started looking at it as a possibility.
“They were cautiously optimistic; (they) wanted more information,” Heffernan said of the community’s overall response, noting that members have been very open-minded to all the proposed changes over the years.
“We have some in the congregation who have recently purchased or are about to install panels on their homes,” said Heffernan, who noted that he is also considering solar panels for his Garlands Crossing home.
After doing some research, the assembly found Thermo Dynamics Ltd., headquartered in Halifax. decided to cooperate with The company has been producing solar energy products since its inception in 1981. President Peter Allen lives in Hants County.
“One of the guys in our church lives like that … and it happened to him and one thing led to another,” Heffernan said of a chance encounter with Allen.
The meeting wanted to ensure they were investing in a product and company that would be sustainable.
Heffernan said a lawyer drafted a contract with Thermo Dynamics and they are now proceeding with the installation of 98 solar panels.
“After we moved in, we always talked about becoming a net zero facility,” Heffernan said. Now they are on the verge of achieving this goal.
“The way it works is that you kind of de-energize the system during the winter months because there’s less sun, and you power the system up in the summer, so you’re running all year round. net zero for us,” he explained.
Nova Scotia Power is handling project approvals, Heffernan said.
Heffernan said the solar panels would cost about $107,000 to install, but they have a lease-like arrangement with the owner.
“We don’t have to preempt anything,” Heffernan said.
“He will host them and essentially, we pay him a monthly fee. Then he will get all the benefits from Nova Scotia Power until the $107,000 is paid,” he said.
Heffernan said they hope the project will pay off in about 10 years.
“If we pay it off early, there’s no interest or penalty.”
Heffernan said the public understands that the start-up costs for solar projects are high and that many people cannot afford the initial investment. But he said in the long run, the improvements will pay dividends for anyone who can go green.
“We’re just trying to be a good example.”
But Windsor Baptist Church isn’t the only one starting energy-efficient upgrades.
Robert E. Rushton noted that Port Williams United Baptist Church (PWUBC) is also in the midst of going solar.
“A generous donation from a donor has enabled PWUBC to begin installing a Photo Voltaic system on the roof of the church hall to harvest energy from the sun,” he said.
“By early 2023, the church hopes to remove both the oil tanks and furnace, install a new 200-amp outlet, two electric furnaces, and more than 30 solar panels.”
The second phase of the project will include the installation of more solar panels and a charging station for electric vehicles.
Rushton said the congregation is “excited to do our part to protect the environment.”
Carole Morris-Underhill is managing editor of the Valley Journal-Advertiser. He can be contacted via email [email protected] and followed @CMUnderhill on Twitter.