Bethany Lutheran Church embraces power of solar energy

18 Jul 2023

Community, News, Economic Development, Infrastructure

Looking at ways the Bethany Church in Cushing was spending its money, now former church council member Amanda Payne-Brastedt said they quickly realized the church spent about $6,000 to $7,000 a year in electric costs. At the same time, there were many articles published about a predicted increase in the cost of electricity.

“We were seeing these terrifying headlines that the $6,500 we were paying would only be growing in the future. When we started looking at that, we thought about what we could do to bring down the electricity usage,” she said.

As a result, the church switched their lighting to LED last year, which has been very effective, Payne-Brastedt said.

However, wanting to decrease the church’s annual cost in electricity further, they started considering solar energy. It is something what was heavily spearheaded by church member Gary Oberton and Payne-Brastedt, said Council Treasurer Lynn Bushinger.

Payne-Brastedt said the Council met with the congregation in the spring of 2022 to seek their input on the idea of exploring the option of solar energy. The Council also asked them to fill out a survey about the prospect.

“People were interested in it, but they wanted to know more before they could fully feel like, ‘We should support it and move forward with it,’” she said.

People who were interested in being a part of the process and project were encouraged to do so.

Throughout 2022, the Council continued to look at different options. While there were rebates available, Payne-Brastedt said most didn’t apply to a non-profit organization. Since the rebates often included getting a tax rebate, it would not benefit the church as it doesn’t pay any taxes. That led to exploring power purchase agreements, private funding and more.

“There were all sorts of different options, but with a lot of details that made it very messy,” she said.

It all changed when the Inflation Reduction Act was passed, which increased the rebate percentage and allowed it to be a direct-pay option.

“That made it a lot more appealing to the church,” she said.

Next, the Council looked at different funding options, such as fundraising or taking out a loan. Ultimately, the church took out a loan and the best part of it, Payne-Brastedt said is that it is cost-neutral at this point. In other words, she said, the money the church saves in energy costs and selling back the electricity to the power company, pays for the loan payment.

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