AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) - It's an energy-savings approach many homeowners take; installing solar energy panels.
But one church's approach is taking divine power to an entirely different level and is hoping to pave a path to producing clean energy.
Vaulted ceilings and a drafty space that is what usually comes to mind when you think of a church. And that reality used to be the case for the South Congregational Church of Amherst .
"We were originally talking about putting in central air conditioning for the parsonage and as the discussion went on, we suggested that we should look at more things," said Steve Jones, chairman of the church's board of trustees.
And those talks led to a bold undertaking. With their annual energy budget between $16,000 and $20,000, members formed an energy committee to work on reducing their carbon footprint.
"They asked a group of people to look into ways to become more energy efficient and possibly look at our own energy generation," said committee member, Julie Marcus.
So far, the committee has come up with spending half a million dollars in energy improvements, from new windows to new siding and even the addition of a solar powered organ. Committee members told 22News the money came from a capital campaign project funded by four years of member donations.
And last Sunday, the church decided to take on a new venture. The congregation unanimously voted to install 150 ( 50kw) solar panels. It's a move that places the faith-based group in the ranks of having the second largest solar panel system in the state.
"Beyond the faith based aspects of trying to be good stewards of the earth and make best use of our resources, as a collective we would also like to have the most efficient building to house all of the activities that we do here," said church member Dave Cody, the general contractor behind most of the work.
Cody says the new windows, insulation and siding has cut energy costs by 40%. And once all tolled, the improvements will translate into $11,000 in energy savings per year.