St. Paul's Goes Solar
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carondelet has turned a generous financial donation from a longtime church member into a bright and shining example of environmental stewardship.
On July 22, workers from Sun Solar finished installing solar panels on the roof of the South St. Louis City parish. The solar panels will provide clean energy into the community’s power grid and will reduce St. Paul’s electric bills by a projected 82%.
The Rev. Rebecca Ragland, St. Paul’s rector, says the solar panels fit perfectly with the mission of their parish, which includes caring for the earth.
“There’s tons of enthusiasm around this!” Rev. Rebecca said. She sees a lot of environmental injustice in St. Paul’s surrounding community. “Our south city neighborhood has experienced a lot of pollution from industries that surround us. We care about that. For us to put in solar is our way of saying we want to offer healing for what is broken and in need of change, and to say to the community: here’s an example of how.”
The congregation began working on this project about two years ago under the leadership of then-senior warden Ed Rahe, who saw the economic and environmental advantages of solar energy. The Vestry researched the project, considering different companies and financing options. They learned that the technology for solar power has come a long way. Panels are now guaranteed to be efficient for 25 years. After that, the efficiency decreases slowly.
St. Paul’s chose Sun Solar, a family-run business from Springfield, MO, to handle the project. Rev. Rebecca said the company was sensitive to their needs as a nonprofit, helping them explore different financing options.
The price tag for this project was approximately $42,000. After rebates and tax credits from the federal government, from Ameren, and from Sun Solar, their total payment dropped to just under $28,000. The congregation will use funds from a bequest from longtime member Gloria Hartman to pay for the project.
Approximately 30 solar panels were installed on the south-facing side of St. Paul’s roof. The power generated from the panels will go into Ameren’s power grid, offsetting St. Paul’s energy costs. Sun Solar projects the panels will take St. Paul’s average electric bill from $188 per month to $40 per month.
Sun Solar estimates more solar will be installed in the United States in the next two years than in the last 40+ years combined. Rev. Rebecca says she hopes this project at St. Paul’s will be a challenge for other parishes in the Diocese of Missouri to explore a solar option.
“This is a really worthwhile thing to do,” she said. “We say we care about the environment, but this is something significant we can do. It’s a tangible witness of our commitment to caring for creation and for the generations to come who face such an uncertain future.”