Solar Panels Power Church Rectory

Solar energy is providing metered electricity to the rectory at Saint Pius X Catholic Church in Granger, IN. The system, consisting of 37 connected solar panels atop a pole barn, was proposed by the parish's Creation Care Team, which was formed in response to Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si'. Pope Francis called on all people to care for our common home and declared the poor are most affected by the challenges of climate change.

Indiana regulations prohibit a solar array from serving more than one electric meter, so the system is sized to meet the needs only of the nearby rectory. Any extra capacity cannot be used to offset electricity going through other meters on the parish grounds, such as the education center, offices, or church.

An app connected to the system's inverter allows online visitors to track live how much energy is being produced by the 10 kW array. See https://tinyurl.com/spx-sun.

During the summer months when the sun is high and the days are long, the solar panels will create more energy than is being consumed by the rectory occupants. That excess energy is diverted back into the grid to meet nearby demand, which peaks in summer mostly due to air conditioning use.

For persons considering a residential application, full net metering in Indiana is still available for new systems that are installed up until July 1, 2022. Those installations that make it under the 2022 clock get full net metering until that higher retail rate is phased out ten years later on July 1, 2032. After July 1, 2022, however, the rules change, and newly installed systems will operate indefinitely under a rate that is closer to the lower wholesale rate. News and legislation action at the Indiana Statehouse are available through Solar United Neighborhood. Bottom line: you'll save much more by acting before July 1, 2022.

The parish can bank the excess generation from summer to pay winter bills when the panels are seasonally less productive. After about a dozen years the money saved on electric bills may have paid for the entire solar system, with energy thereafter being essentially free. Meanwhile, from Day One of using solar energy, the rectory will be essentially powered by non-carbon renewable energy.

The rectory is still connected to the electric grid to get traditionally powered electricity during the night and cloudy days. To disconnect fully from the grid would require a battery storage system. Again, though, the panels should contribute significantly toward nearly a year's worth of electricity over twelve months.

Though the solar panels first appeared on the rooftop at the August 2018 parish picnic, they became fully functional in late December 2019. The project encountered delays when the original installer had a personal health crisis and went out of business, leaving the parish and several individuals in a lurch. Eventually another contractor finished connecting the panels to the rectory meter.

A solargraph facing southward overlooking the pole barn indicates the swath of sun from which the solar panels will capture energy. Around the 2019 December solstice and with support from Mossberg and Company Inc., about sixty students at Saint Pius X made their own solargraph cans to create individual long-duration exposures of the sun.

Solar panels convert sunlight into usable electric current using a process known as the photovoltaic (PV) effect. There are no moving parts, with the exception of electrons, so maintenance is greatly reduced. The panels lose a small amount of efficiency annually, but are expected to last at least 25 years.

For a video descripton of how solar panels work, see https://youtu.be/L_q6LRgKpTw.

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