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Unitarian Universalist Church is the first in the city to install solar panels.
It was Earth Day, April 22, 2014 when a truck loaded with solar panels drove into the parking lot of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga. There was a wave of anticipation and excitement when, three days later, the switch was flipped and 12 panels silently produced almost three kilowatts of solar power for the first time. For church congregants, it was the latest project in their Green Sanctuary Initiative and a statement of justice and stewardship. It was also a first for Chattanooga. One wonders why.
Most people who attend church regularly profess the requirement to love one another. Why haven’t more churches taken this loving step to reduce carbon pollution for the sake of our fellow inhabitants on Earth? It’s a natural thing to do. After all, solar has guaranteed us energy longer than land-based water, coal, oil or nuclear sources. The sun keeps life going. It has warmed us and caused wind to blow, not to mention providing us food through plant photosynthesis.
The trouble is that it is so diffuse in its distribution. Every fifth-grade boy knows how to focus the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass to burn up an ant or start a fire, but we are now learning how to capture solar rays more efficiently and how to channel its captured energy for beneficial uses.
People sometimes list numerous reasons why solar cannot possibly be our only source of energy:
1. The sun doesn’t shine at night. No kidding. Good to know. This is where batteries and storage come in. Think new battery industry and jobs connected to solar power. Much work in increasing battery efficiency is already being done.
2. It takes up too much land space for the same amount of energy one gets from a nuclear plant. The land used for a nuclear plant is forever off-limits due to radiation contamination, monitoring, and security. Solar energy can be collected from rooftops, highways, and parking lots without co-opting prime agricultural land. Besides, when there’s a solar accident, we call it a sunny day.
3. We don’t live in a good area to get enough solar energy. Guess what? Tennessee has more solar energy to draw on than Germany, the country that on sunny days can now supply solar power for about 30 percent of German consumption. Germany is hoping to have 80 percent of its power produced from renewables by 2035.
4. It’s too expensive. It used to be. Prices have come down dramatically. A Duke University study finds the price for solar energy is now at or below the cost of more conventional fuels. In Tennessee, the fastest-growing industry last year was solar. Remember too that a solar panel on your roof increases the value of your home, while reducing your monthly energy payment. Further, if you produce solar electrons for the grid, TVA will pay you $.04/kilowatt hour, thereby reducing your electric bill.
People of faith, it’s time to step up. If we are keepers of the Garden and the Garden is suffering, then action is required. Installing solar panels to reduce carbon footprints and help clean air for others is one moral thing to do.
The Unitarian Universalists conducted a stewardship drive to collect the $20,000 needed to purchase and install the solar panels. It’s a first step toward a vision of a small carbon-neutral power plant in harmony with the environment and in support of justice.
In time, if enough of us do this, we can stop burning coal supplied by mountain-top removal mining that results in forest destruction, poisoned water and unhealthy communities. We can produce electricity without radioactive trash. Let’s create a good faith movement.
The solar panels can be seen from I-24 near the Germantown Road Entrance. The church is located at 3224 Navajo Drive.