Newark United Methodist Church has completed the first phase in its ambitious Renewing Our Foundation capital project, and the most visible addition is solar panels perched on the roof.
The 31-kilowatt solar energy system has been live since Oct. 7, two weeks after being installed on the roof of the facility’s education wing. The panels are expected to save the church thousands of dollars.
“They’re newer, much more efficient than the panels that originally came out when this tech started,” said Rob Cappiello, the church’s business manager. “With the inverters, you can track the efficiency of each one and if it’s angled properly. You can tweak it to a much more finite level.”
The church had decided to focus on solar power as part of its Renewing Our Foundation campaign, a six-year renovation project. The church was founded in 1799 and has been on Main Street since the mid-1800s. It is currently located at 69 E. Main St.
The renovation plans are not just a way to give a landmark church an efficiency makeover. They are also to renew the congregation’s commitment to Newark, Cappiello said.
“We’ve heard from other churches, many years ago, that moved out of downtown areas, and the church-goers decided to stay here,” he said. “That began the process of looking at the facility that’s had multiple renovations in the past, and say ‘What do we do to make it current?’ We want to go give back to environment, in addition to keeping us here in the long haul.”
Reducing the church’s carbon footprint was part of the congregation’s vision for the future.
The solar panels were part of that plan. The church also replaced oil heaters with high-efficiency gas heaters and made the switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Soon, those bulbs will be swapped out with LED lights.
The solar panels, installed by kW Solar of Bear, cost approximately $100,000. The city offers an energy rebate for using solar energy, but the church will not receive that money for another year or two, according to Cappiello.
“Basically, we have to support that until we see the money come back. The church members paid for everything, hoping to recoup energy savings for the rest of it over an eight-year period,” he said.
The next phase of the project will break ground at the end of June 2016 and is expected to be completed in three years. It includes a new welcome center on the Delaware Avenue side of the building that will feature a handicap-accessible entrance and a lobby addition.
Other renovations include new lighting in the sanctuary and upgrades to six bathrooms.
At the end of the long journey, the church will hopefully be more inviting and sustainable for generations to come, Cappiello said.
“These were major undertakings. The infrastructure was aging, there were old steam pipes and boilers, and the roof was in need of repair,” he said. “After deciding this is where we want our faith to stay, we had to go about making it a place where we can worship and serve the community for years to come. It’s the caring of the congregation that really drives us forward.”