A Solar Celebration

May 3, 2022 | Stories from the Diocese

The Rev. Randy Alexander, Rector, blesses the solar panels.

Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria has always had a cross on top of its Zabriskie Chapel, but now that roof has a second symbol of commitment to Christ’s teachings – solar panels. In April, the church had 191 solar panels installed to provide the chapel and parish hall with electricity, thereby reducing the church’s carbon emissions. The solar panels are a visible and public sign of commitment to creation care that the congregation hopes will inspire others.

How much does it cost for a church to go solar? The Immanuel Church project cost about $197,000. The project began two years ago when the vestry commissioned a successful feasibility study and solicited bids. Then the vestry launched a campaign to raise money for the solar installation. Immanuel parishioners generously donated the funds needed to purchase and install the solar system.

The church contracted with Sustainable Energy Solutions, who completed the installation on time and on budget.

The 191 solar panels are expected to generate at least 65,000 kWh annually, which represents 65% of the electricity used by the church’s Zabriskie Chapel and parish hall.

Going solar will also save the church an estimated $6,500 every year in electricity bills. That’s based on today’s rates. Given that the price of electricity purchased from Dominion Energy has risen by more than 20% in the last 15 years, going solar will also help shield the church from future electricity price hikes.

Finally, it is possible that Immanuel will get additional revenue through the new Virginia SREC initiative. Solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) are a performance-based incentive that let a solar system’s owner earn additional income from solar electricity generation. Virginia’s SREC initiative is still being finalized, but the Immanuel will be able to participate when the program becomes available.

The church can also receive credit from Dominion for any excess electricity its panels generate and send to the grid.

On April 24th, the congregation celebrated the completed installation and the panels were blessed by Bishop Susan Goff and the Rev. Randy Alexander, the church’s rector.

Fr. Alexander said, “In many ways this project seems like a win/win/win proposition: 1) reducing our carbon footprint while caring for Creation, 2) saving money to use towards our other ministries, and 3) witnessing to our faith to the community, which may also be tangible evangelism.”

Now that the panels are installed, the City of Alexandria will perform an inspection. Following inspection, Dominion Energy will install the net meter. Once the net meter is up and running, hopefully by the end of May, the solar panels will begin generating electricity.

But already traffic driving along Seminary Road can see Immanuel’s solar panels and hopefully feel inspired by this visible sign of caring for God’s creation as the people of Immanuel shout it from the rooftop.

The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff blesses the solar panels and those attending the service.

Solar panels installed on the roof of Zabriskie Chapel.