Let there be light: North Carolina faith group arguing for greater access to solar

By installing solar, congregations at these three North Carolina faith organizations have led the way in committing to a clean energy future. The installation locations are, from left to right, Asheville's First Congregational United Church of Christ, Charlotte's Myers Park Baptist, and the Montreat Conference Center east of Asheville.    (© Interfaith Power & Light)

As the North Carolina Utilities Commission considers how one church in the state is financing its new solar array, SELC is representing North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light in their effort to expand the scope of the ruling beyond a single church.

In comments filed today, SELC is asking the commission to ensure greater access to solar power for the state’s faith community. For North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light and the congregations it serves, reducing pollution and caring for the environment are moral obligations. Yet, the upfront costs of solar installations are often a significant hurdle to reducing the organizations’ carbon emissions.

One church, Faith Community Church in Greensboro, overcame this by entering into a power purchase agreement, which allowed the nonprofit NC WARN to pay for the solar installation, then set up a contract selling the power generated to the church at a set price for three years. Under this agreement NC WARN recoups its costs, while the church avoids needing significant amounts of cash in hand to set up their solar. The case before the commissions asks that similar power purchase agreements be approved for faith-based organizations throughout the state.

With North Carolina’s tax credit for solar costs set to expire at the end of this year, the need for alternative financing options is even more pressing. In the past, private donations could facilitate solar purchases for churches, with donors able to use the 35% state tax credit to increase the value of their contribution. As the door closes on this one financing option, the commission has the opportunity to open the door to another through providing legal clarity that solar power purchase agreements are allowed in North Carolina.


Read the Charlotte Business Journal coverage of the case.

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