Solar power becoming a fixture for Michiana congregations

Saturday was a perfect day to be outside enjoying the sun, but some church groups across South Bend will tell you it was also a great day to be using the sun’s energy.

“This is a very visible thing, a very visible way of showing where our priorities lye,” Kern Road Church Energy Task Force Chair Vic Myers said.

Myers is talking about the 98 solar panels that welcome you to South Bend’s Kern Road Mennonite Church, one of six South Bend places of worship outfitted with solar panels.

“This church has a history of being concerned about energy conservation and alike,” Myers said.

So when Myers, a parishioner at the church and an energy advocate, found out his church could apply for a grant to get solar panels, he acted.

“The money wasn’t quite a freebee,” Myers said. “We had to show our commitment.”

The Michiana church raised $50,000 for the solar panels and the congregation pledged to save energy at the church and at their own homes.

Their commitment earned them a $24,000 grant from the statewide organization, Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light.

“Our belief is that people of faith can work together across denominations and across religions and [say], let’s be a unified voice for the environment,” Hoosier Interfaith P&L Organizing Chair Mike Oles III said.

Oles joined members of the church at a solar celebration Saturday.

Myers explained the benefits of the solar panels to members of his congregation while workshops were held to continue spreading awareness about energy efficiency.

“Catholics, Mennonites, Methodists, Muslims, all working together to [say], let’s do this!” Oles said. “We’re all in this together and let’s be a voice for creation and let’s be a voice for our neighbors!”

Solar Energy Systems in Nappanee installed the panels at the Kern Road Church and sales representative Roger Method was also at Saturday’s celebration.

“There’s 480 billion volts of power in the sky every day and we’re only now just beginning to harness it,” Method said. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right time to do it.”

Myers said the year and a half of hard work to get the panels installed has been worth it.

“It’s been just really rewarding to see everything come together and to perform, more or less, as we had hoped!” Myers said.

The solar panels have been up on the church since October and Myers said they now cover about one-third of the church electric bill – about $3,500 each year.

You can find out how your church can get involved with this program by clicking here or by swinging by the Kern Road Mennonite Church and inquiring. 

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