Decatur church’s solar panels help clear the air and balance the books

By Don Plummer
Posted Jun 24, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] In response to Pope Francis’ recent call for “all people of goodwill” to mitigate human-induced climate change and respond to environmental degradation members of Georgia’s faith leadership and scientific and environmental communities gathered at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church to support his historic message.

“The Pope’s clarion places high importance on lifting up the world’s most vulnerable populations, who will be the worst impacted by a changing climate and environmental pollution,” said the Rev. Daniel Dice. The Decatur church was chosen because it recently installed solar panels, Dice said.

Rev. Kate Mosley, executive director, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, said environmental pollution disproportionately affects those with the fewest resources.

“In Georgia, the youngest, oldest, and poorest will shoulder the worst effects of poor air quality from the same fossil fuel infrastructure shown to drive climate chaos,” Mosley said. The interfaith leaders and environmental advocates called for stewardship of Georgia’s natural heritage and swift response from state and federal leadership to protect critical clean air safeguards.

The solar panels on the roof of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church make  both financial and ecological sense, Dice said. They will provide a consistent revenue stream for the small congregation, but taking a stand for the ecology is equally important.

“Any energy that can be produced with a negative carbon footprint helps,” Dice said.  “If the problem seems like an ocean too big to combat, just think of that the ocean simply as a collection of drops. With this drop, St. Timothy’s strives to be a part of the change.”

St. Timothy’s, formed in 1898, is accustomed to facing challenges. After a period of decline due to white flight the church’s neighborhood rebounded as it became home to Caribbean immigrants. St. Timothy embraced the newcomers and the congregation now combines the best of Episcopalian traditions with Southern American experiences and the vibrancy of Caribbean Anglicanism.

St. Timothy’s outreach is especially important to the disenfranchised of diverse backgrounds in the community.

The church has a vibrant choral ministry, now planning its third international tour, and a dedicated outreach program, including feeding hundreds of people each month through the food pantry.

One of the parish’s newest and most exciting projects is its focus on the stewardship of the earth.

Dice said the congregation’s environmental ministry was taken up as penance for prior abuses of the land: “’Accept our repentance, Lord, for our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us.’ As temporary caretakers of this planet, every decision we make impacts the quality of air, water, and earth our children’s children will have.”

Earlier this year, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church was able to install approximately $200,000 worth of solar panels zero cost to the parish through the Advanced Solar Initiative, a Federal Program originally signed into law by President George W. Bush.

St. Timothy’s solar panels were installed by Hannah Solar, LLC, of Atlanta.  Pete Marte, Hannah Solar CEO said his company is one of the fastest growing certified solar energy companies in Georgia.

St. Timothy’s long term agreement with Hannah Solar will deliver meaningful energy production with environmental benefits.  By selling the clean energy produced at St. Timothy’s back to the grid, the photovoltaic array atop St. Timothy’s will also help financially support the church’s mission and ministry to its  community.

“The Holy Spirit’s work in us leads us as faithful consumers and investors in a global economy to make responsible choices to reduce energy use, carbon emissions, and the wasteful consumption of water and other natural resources,” Dice said. “We have the resources and responsibility to act together for the common good, especially for those most vulnerable to the effect of climate change.”

– Don Plummer works in media and community relations in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.