Solar Panel Project


Description    History    Excerpt of Grant Application 


Ground-mounted 23,940 watt solar array. This solar voltaic system should produce more than 28,000 KWH per year and could be expanded as the needs of the church change. The project would consist of two arrays located between the Vestry and the Parsonage. The underground feed would go to the Parsonage, since it has the most updated electrical panel. There, it would be reverse metered back to the grid with the credits shared with the Church and JUMP.


PANELS: 84 Solar world SW 275

INVERTERS: 3 SMA 7000 US-12 Grid Tie Inverters

RACKS: Driven steel poles with Iron Ridge racking systems

Cost per watt installed $2.77. This system will generate 110% of our need, and saves us $4,228 per year (based on 2011-2014 average electricity cost)   INSTALLED SYSTEM COST                            $64,100  

Additional for site work and contingency        $  5,900  



INTENDED BENEFITS (25 year expected system lifespan)  

1) Save the church $105,700 in electric bills (at today rates)

Currently CCC pays $4,228 (avg.) per year for electricity  


2) System will be overbuilt by 10% to enable a tithe to JUMP of approx.

$422 per year or $10,550 over the system lifespan  


3) This system will reduce our carbon footprint, and offsets about 10,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions per year





The church received notice this November, of availability for a $20,000 grant through Green Mountain Power, for non-profit solar projects. With the grant possibility and an anonymous $10,000 donation (to be matched by $10,000) to
add to our existing Solar Fund, we proceeded with a competitive bid and reviewed 4 proposals. All were contractors vetted as Renewable Energy Vermont Solar Partners as required for the GMP grant. We reviewed various plans for installation on the vestry roof, freestanding solar trackers and came to the conclusion that using set arrays on the ground between the Vestry  and Parsonage made most sense economically and aesthetically.  The deadline to complete the installation is August 2015, in order to receive the GMP grant. Our chosen (lowest bid) contractor is Donald F. Schroeder, Master Electrician PLC,
a small family owned electrical contracting business, that specializes in renewable solar electric projects.


DESCRIPTION 84 panels, 28,000 KWH annually,  will generates 110% of our need, after any loan payback saves us $4,228 per year (based on 2011-2014 average electricity cost, etc.) The additional 10% “tithe” value, will go to Jump (Joint Urban Ministry Project) for low income electric bill vouchers.



Project Cost
$64,100      Total cost estimate for panels & installation
$   5,900     Site work and contingency
$70,000     TOTAL COST

Proposed Payment Plan:
$20,000     Grant
$13,000      Received in donations to date
$37,000      Further fund-raised donations *
$70,000     TOTAL FUNDS

*With the approval of a congregational vote, the Endowment Fund will be used to supplement fundraising and cash flow requirements, with the intent of a payback from the proceeds from electricity savings.





Overall Value of Project to Promote Renewable Energy in Your Organization (Impact of project on applicant’s organization and their community)

“Are we willing to acknowledge that we’ve got a serious and threatening problem here in our world and if so do we bury our heads and hope somewhere, someone will be able to deal with it to minimize the suffering in the future or do we look seriously and intently and listen closely for what God might be asking of us here in the 21st century Church in this first world country? “

-Will Burhans, (Former) Senior Minister, Charlotte Congregational Church

Support for this project has been building over the last three years. Since 2007 we have had a committee called CASA, (Committee for Contemplation and Social Action). Our mission statement calls us to recognize “…reverence for creation by identifying… environmental issues, stimulating study, dialogue and prayer, and inviting action.” Through book studies, Environmental Action Committee meetings, sermons and worship services, we have been dedicated to focusing on our care for God’s creation. A small seed fund was established to encourage the congregation’s commitment to energy conservation and environmental stewardship. Heeding the groundswell of enthusiasm for this effort, the Prudential Committee commissioned an energy audit and is applying for this grant. The grant writer is a CASA member. Rev. Michael Piazza, author of Liberating Hope: Daring to Renew the Mainline Church, and Co-Executive Director of The Center for Progressive Renewal has been hired by the Vermont Conference of the United Church of Christ to consult with four model UCC congregations in Vermont, one of which is the Charlotte Congregational Church, UCC. Rev. Piazza believes that by helping a few congregations change and grow, other churches will likely follow suit. Our church’s goal is to be a 21st century
expression of a liberated and liberating faith community. Having solar-
powered buildings for all to see makes clear the connection between our religious faith and environmental justice and care. Such an initiative also speaks volumes to the wider community that we are a modern church, willing and able to be responsive to the needs and necessities of the times. This will inevitably, we believe, call younger generations to us and ensure the continuity of this house of worship for generations to come.   Solar panels are a perfect facelift for our church property and would allow us to be a prophetic witness to the public.

In Massachusetts many churches have developed solar energy projects.
They have learned that when a church gets solar energy, it creates a
tremendous amount of excitement. It makes a strong statement to the community that we care about taking action now to combat climate change. We will have a special community wide ceremony to bless the solar panels. There will be a sharp learning curve for many of our members as they learn more about solar energy.


Our PV panels will be tied into our building’s electrical supply net metering.  GMP will make it possible for us to learn how much power the solar panels are generating. It is our intention to “tithe” ten percent of the value to Jump (Joint Urban Ministry Project), a charity that is dear to us. We are one of twenty-six area congregations that join in this ministry to the poorest in Burlington. The funds we tithe will buy more vouchers for customers to pay their electric bills. Our solar array is sized to allow this addition ten percent above what is needed to provide electricity to all the church buildings.


What is the Educational Value this Project Will Provide to your Community? (overall impact to publicly promote renewable energy)

With a membership of more than 250, our church has one of the largest congregations in Vermont.  They are home owners and play important roles in ten towns in Chittenden County and four towns in Addison County.   Probably 200 others use our church buildings each week for Charlotte Food Shelf, yoga, music and art lessons, AA, Preschool children and parents, Transition Town meetings, receptions,  to name a few. We will have a solar energy display demonstrating our solar project like Shelburne Senior Housing.   

The United Church of Christ is the largest protestant denomination in Vermont.  There are 139 UCC congregations in the state with a total membership of about 13,000 members. Our associate pastor (now bridge pastor), Susan Cooke Kittredge is on the planning committee for the Annual Meeting that will be attended by clergy and representatives from the 139 UCC congregations. Susan is confident that a workshop and speakers on Solar Energy in the Church will be well attended and generate enthusiasm for more such installations. Clearly, our church will be a model helping other congregations in this regard. Members of our congregation are eager to help other churches and houses of worship in the state, acting on a new ministry we are calling, “Sun-powered buildings, God-powered lives.”  Our (former) Senior Pastor, Will Burhans, is a song writer and musician with 3 CD’s. He will write a song to perform at these presentations.

Through leadership of our CASA committee we are partners with Transition Town Charlotte  ( that is working towards a transition “to a more sustainable, resilient, and self-reliant local economy and way of life”. For the past few years we have held joint meetings and potluck dinners for film showings, dialogues, etc. This year on our front lawn we shared and cared for a community garden. The produce was harvested and given to our Charlotte Food Shelf which is housed in our vestry basement (rent free and utility bill free.)  Transition Town Charlotte, the UCC and our church all have newsletters that we will use to publicize our project.

We have an active website  and a Facebook page. Upon the completion of the solar energy project, we will add information allowing anyone to see how our solar energy system is producing as well as how much money we have tithed to JUMP to assist low income clients to pay their electric bills.  By linking to a site at GMP, this information will be up to date and accurate.   

It is our sincere hope that the Charlotte Congregational Church will model
an easy and uncomplicated means for others to “tithe” ten percent of the value of the solar energy generated to a non-profit of their choice. Lowering our church‘s carbon footprint and lessening our negative impact on the environment go hand in hand with helping people in need. We see this as a win-win situation; as the environment is helped so too are the most vulnerable among us. We think that this idea is unique and newsworthy and will provide additional support for renewable energy.  



Sun-powered buildings,

God-powered lives!