A Solar Photovoltaic Power System for UUFR – Part 1

In November 2019, the UUFR Board authorized a solar array on the roof of Fellowship Hall under a lease arrangement with Eagle Solar & Light.  Since then a lot of work has been done both by ESL and UUFR to design and engineer the system, file the proposal, obtain a rebate from Duke Energy, and negotiate a lease.  The lease was signed on August 12, 2020 and UUFR expects installation this fall. This blog post gives some high-level information on the system. Future blog posts will give more detail.

Why are we doing this?  I’m confident that everyone at UUFR is aware of what is now called a “climate crisis” due to global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide and methane.  Very few UU’s are in denial, but not everyone is aware of the immediacy of the problem.  In 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report predicted that the planet has until 2030 to change the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid irreversible climate damage. Specifically, humans must achieve a 45% reduction in greenhouse gases from their 2010 levels and “net zero” by 2050.  (“Net zero” means that the amount of carbon going into the air equals the amount of carbon being removed from the air.) That is a tall order and, unfortunately, our current federal administration is not taking the challenge seriously.  We need to do everything we can now individually and as a faith community to give future generations a good quality of life.

So what will UUFR’s new solar system be like?  It will consist of 117 panels placed on the flat roof and porte-cochere of Fellowship Hall. Three inverters will convert the direct current from the panels to alternating current, which the building can use.  This will be one of the larger solar arrays on a church in Wake County, capable of producing 41.7 MWh of electricity per year, or enough electricity to do 28,000 loads in an average dishwasher.

The system is projected to produce 45% of the electricity that we use in Fellowship Hall.  It will reduce UUFR’s electricity bill. There will be a small cost in the early years, about $45 per month in year one.  Models predict that over the 25–year life of the system we will save $52,000 in electricity bills.  More importantly, during that period we will avoid emission of 675 metric tons of carbon dioxide!  To get a sense of how much carbon that is, consider playing with the EPA’s greenhouse-gas equivalences calculator. For example, UUFR’s solar array will take the equivalent of about 146 passenger vehicles off the road for an entire year. This savings is one of the most effective actions we can take as a congregation to reduce the carbon footprint of our facilities.

Russ Outcalt
For the Environmental Justice Ministry Team


Rendering of UUFR Solar Array