Solar Panels at First Church

Sunrise over the church

Did you know that we have a photovoltaic system, AKA solar panels at First Church? We Energies commissioned the system in 2010 and First Church produces and sells electrical energy back to them. Because electrical energy travels at near the speed of light, all members will be using some of the energy in their own homes. We Energies pays First Church for this renewable energy.

Full Spectrum Solar, located in Madison, WI, was the general contractor. The system is capable of producing 10kW (10,000 watts) when the sunlight is perpendicular to the panels on a clear day. Because it is not always clear, the sunlight is not perpendicular to the panels, and due to the time of day and the season, a better way to assess system performance is on a yearly basis. The system will produce 11,700 kW a year or $1400 of electrical energy and eliminate 20,500 lb of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere per year. System performance is guaranteed for 25 years.

The system consists of two arrays of panels that will be mounted on the Common Room roof and the small roof above the elevator and new restrooms on the second floor, across from Otto Hall. The arrays face south and are tilted to face the sun. The top of the array is about ten feet above the roof. The array over the Common Room consists of twenty-five panels, five wide by five high, and the array over the elevator consists of twenty panels, four wide by five high. The panels are rated at 225 watts and are manufactured by SunPower located in San Jose, CA. They measure 2.5’x5’, weigh 33 lb. and are 18% efficient; this is the highest efficiency available worldwide. Because solar panels generate DC (direct current) and the power grid utilizes AC (alternating current), two Sunny Boy inverters, which convert DC to AC, are installed between the arrays and the grid.

To anchor the arrays to the roof there are four stainless posts bolted to the I-beams that support the roofs for each array. A crane was used to lift I-beams, racks and panels to the roof. The I-beams are mounted to the posts, racks are attached to the I-beams and the solar panels are attached to the racks.

The total cost of the system is about $90,500 but a Focus on Energy grant of $24,750 and We Energies incentives totaling $45,545 brought our cost down to about $20,200.

See our photovoltaic production here: !