UUSL has earned Green Sanctuary Certification fron the national Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). We share ideas and information for environmental and social justice advocacy, as well as worship, education and sustainable living via our group on the UUSL Facebook page. An email to Roger and Inez can be sent to request information on our Green Sanctuary program.
Our Vision: A world that we help make more sustainable, safe, healthy, and just, through our UUSL Green Sanctuary Actions, for all humanity, including p0resent and future generations, and the whole of the interconnected web of life.
Our Mission: In collaboration with other organizations and communities, to achieve Our Vision, by accomplishing activities to address Climate Change, Water Quality, and other Critical Environmental and Social Justice issues.
UUSL Green Sanctuary Input
Nov 30, 2023
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Frequently Asked Questions About the Solar Panels and Mini-Splits
October 15, 2023, the congregation approved a resolution to proceed with the installation of solar panels and mini splits and to spend up to $50,000 for this green energy project.
The funds will be obtained through donations, grants, government subsidies,and the balance from the UUSL Trust Fund to close the gap between what has been raised and projected expenses as approved by the Parish Committee on September 14, 2023, and the congregational meeting vote of October 15, 2023. This authorization covers fiscal years’23-‘25. The following provides information to related questions about the project.
1 How does having solar panels help the environment?
The 20 solar panels proposed for our Sanctuary roof will replace the existing amount of electricity that we use from the grid, plus enough to power our three new electric mini-splits. Today, when we use electricity from the New England regional grid, we are using power from a mix of power plants, specifinally about 55% natural gas, 20% nuclear, 15% imports from other power grids 5% hydro, and only 5% from renewable energy. (ISO-NE)
When we produce our own renewable energy, we are offsetting the emissions of fossil-fueled carbon dioxide (CO2). As these emissions build in the atmosphere, they cause an increase in global temperatures, which are the drivers for the Climate Crisis. We also reduce other pollutants like particulate matter and nitrogen oxides that contribute to poor air quality, deaths, and health conditions like asthma.
You can see the resources mix and real time costs of electricity on the app “ISO to Go.” “ISO” stands for the nonprofit organizato on - the Independent System Operator or ISO-New England that runs the electric grid.
2. What does the project cost?
See the beginning chart.
3. What is the total value of the Trust Fund at this time?
The Trust Fund is currently valued at $250,000. The amount solar and mini-split energy project is asking the Trust Fund to cover represents approximately 5% of the Trust Fund. One of the purposed of the Trust Fund is to support capital projects for our facilities.
4. What is the pay-back period?
The payback period is about 10-12 years for the combined solar and mini-split systems. After that time, our solar array will contongue to save the us money for the 30 plus year panel life.
5. What is the federal grant about?
The federal “Inflation Reduction Act” or IRA (August 2022) extended a 30% federal tax credit for solar panel installations by residento al customers. For the first time, places of worship, which are non-profits – (don’t pay taxes) can take advantage of this tax credit. It will come in the form of a direct payment grant after our solar array has been in operato on for about 18 months.
We will need to borrow this amount from the Trust or a bank for the 18-month period.
6. Isn’t NH too cloudy for solar?
Many people have a misconception that solar systems do not work in NH due to New England’s diverse weather conditions. However, experts agree it is an excellent location and has enough solar radiation. In addito on, there is now plenty of confirming data from existing installations.
7. What happens when it is cloudy or dark out?
Our solar array will be tied into the regional electric grid. When the panels are producing electricity, they will be automatI cally providing our electricity in real time. When they are not producing electricity, the electric grid will be providing our electricity just like it does now. We will not notice a difference unless you like the fun of watching the electric meter run backwards! We will not need a backup system like a battery.
8. Do we have to shovel off the panels?
No, the snow will shed from the panels or easily melt if it is a small amount as they are dark and and absorb the warmth of the sun.
8. How will we keep pedestrians safe from any falling snow of the solar panels?
There is a concern that snow could slide off the roof, and injure folks on the walkway. It should be noted that the side Elevator Entrance will not be affected, because the solar panels will not be installed over this entrance. One adjustment to the project has been made already to reduce this risk. The Solar Panels will be installed higher on the roof, leaving approximately 5 feet of shingled roof between the bottom of the Panels and the bottom edge of the roof. We are hoping this may cause all or some of the snow to fall closer to the building.
However, initIally, we anticipate that we may have to block the current side entrance and walkway from use in the winter and use the front door instead (with a new alarm panel) as a precaution.
During the first winter after the solar panels have been installed (Dec 2024/Mar 2025) we will monitor the shedding of snow off the roof and present alternatives to the Parish Committee and congregation for consideration including:
• Use of the Front Door as the primary entrance during snow events or the entire winter.
• Installation of snow-guards on the bottom edges of the roof beneath the solar panels.
• Installation of an expanded overhead protected walkway, from the side “Kitchen-Mailbox” door to the Funeral Home drive. Requires structure and walkway adjustments.
We are committed to addressing this safety concern and ensuring adequate accessibility to our church.
‘We are committed to addressing this safety concern and ensuring adequate accessibility to our church.
9. How much of our electricity use are the solar panels providing?
The solar panels are designed to provide all of our electricity: our current electricity use and the added electricity needed for the mini-splits.
10. How does Solar energy reduce our electricity costs?
Cheaper solar energy replaces our more expensive (mostly fossil and nuclear fuel) utility supply costs through a bill mechanism called “net-metering.” Our electric bill consists of two main parts – the supply charge and the delivery charge. The supply charge is the cost of receiving electricity from the power plants that supply the regional grid. The delivery charge is for the costs to get electricity to your house (poles and wires). Everyone on grid has to pay for poles and wires.
11. What is net-metering?
Electricity customers who net meter have a special meter which measures the flow of electricity in both directions – the power we produce and the power we use from Eversource.
When our solar panels are producing electricity, we can use that power in real time but if we produce more power than we use, it flows back to the grid. If we produce more solar electricity than we use, Eversource will keep track of our electricity sent to the grid and credit it against the electricity costs from using the grid (say at night).
12. Does net-metering mean we pay zero for electricity?
No, every customer connected to the regional grid must pay for the electric infrastructure (poles and wires) through the delivery charge. But we will no longer be paying for the “supply charge” while the sun shines.
13. Can our wiring handle the solar panels and the mini-splits?
The proposed project of solar panels and mini-splits will include separate wiring and will not impact our existing wiring and electrical system.
14. Aren’t solar panels causing a waste problem at the end of their life?
Disposal of solar panels at the end of their life is a concern. However, as the market conto nues to increase, recycling the materials in discarded solar panels is becoming economically viable and we are already starting to see business develop in this area. States are working on this concern with possible regulatory options in the future.
15. What is a mini-split and where will they be located?
We will install one unit in the Alliance Room and one in each of the two ofives.
A mini-split (also known as a ductless heat pump) is a type of electric powered heating and cooling system. Our solar powered system will have one outdoor compressor unit connected to all three indoor units. It works with new efficient refrigerants that take heat out the ambient air for heating and removes heat for cooling. Our office and meeting area will get needed AC!
16. Why are people installing mini-splits?
Electric powered mini-splits are twice as energy efficient as fossil fueled furnaces. Plus, they also provide cooling much more efficiently than a window air conditoner. Using electricity to power mini-splits from the grid produces less pollution and climate emissions than directly using fossil fuels like oil, propane, or natural gas for heating. However, combining mini-splits and producing our own solar electricity results in the least amount of climate emissions and pollution!
17. Are there any warranties on the equipment?
Yes, there is a 25-year warranty on the the solar system and a 19 yr. on the mini-splits.
18. Do the solar system and mini-splits need maintenance?
The solar panels are cleaned by the rain here in New England. We can monitor the operation of the panels with an app and alert our installer when there is a problem and a panel needs to be adjusted or replaced. The mini-splits get serviced every couple of years and the filters need to be rinsed every few months.
19. Will we still need our gas boiler?
Yes, our gas boiler will heat the Sanctuary and downstairs zones of the building. In addition, the gas boiler can be used to boost up the temperature in the ofive wing zone when necessary.
Contact Roger and Inez Andrews, Joanne Morin, or Sarah Thorne if you have more questions!
Closing Thought from our Green Sanctuary News 11/09/2023
Recyclable Plastic Event with Green Sanctuary Committee members and volunteers from the Laconia-Gilford Lions Club
The UUA Green Sanctuary Certification Program provides requirements and a path for congregations to address climate change and environmental justice. Congregations that complete the program are accredited in recognition of their service and dedication to the earth and future generations.
As prescribed by the UUA Green Sanctuary Guidelines, our UUSL Green Sanctuary Certification Action Plan included an in-depth environmental evaluation of our sanctuary and organization as well as activities related to four specific areas;