Parishes, schools and agencies

Solar panels become part of parish mission

From the parishes

By Chris Shearer

January 21 2021

St George’s East Ivanhoe will complete the installation of 136 solar panels on the church roof before Christmas, a project that’s cost them less than $1000 upfront. 

Priest-in-Charge at St George’s, the Revd John Sanderson, says the project, which began with the installation of 80 330 watt panels in June, was made possible by “partnerships we’ve entered into and the relationships we’ve established” within the local community. 

Mr Sanderson told TMA that the parish had hoped to install solar panels for some time, but it wasn’t until he began speaking with a local councillor that the ball started rolling. 

The councillor called Mr Sanderson this year to ask if he was still interested in beginning the project, then introduced him to the Montmorency Community Group, which had recently won State Government funding for community projects. 

The group was able to provide the $24,000 needed to install the first 80 panels, but the church insisted on paying back 10% of the total cost each year so that the group could support more local solar panel projects in the years to come. 

“So it also becomes a twofold mission objective,” Mr Sanderson says, “because we’ve partnered with another community group and we’re also now helping sustain that community group as the mission of the church to support other groups in the community.”

With more room left on the roof, St George’s then bid on an environmental support grant from Banyule City Council, which provided $8,000 of the $16,000 price tag for a further 36 370 watt panels, which will begin to be installed on 7 December. But by the time government rebates and GST refunds were calculated, the total cost of the project upfront was around $600. 

“So for us, because of the partnerships we’ve entered into and the relationships we’ve established, cashflow-wise this is only going to cost us under $1000.” 

As an added bonus, St George’s third quarter electricity bill was $800 less than the previous year’s. 

“So we reckon we’re going to be cashflow positive within a year, and that if we’d been paying for the whole thing it would have paid for itself in under five years.”

On top of that, the full system will save over 49 tonnes of CO2 and other polluting emissions each year. 

Mr Sanderson says the St George’s worshipping community is “pretty chuffed” to have been able to achieve this objective in a relatively short timeframe, and says he’d be more than happy to help other churches in the Diocese through the process.