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Celebrating Ten Years of Solar and Energy Efficiency Programs at Mountain View UMC

June 10, 2021
Mountain View UMC photo courtesy Nelson Chen

By Gary Schmitz, Fred Walls, Arthur Howe, and Mary Beth Downing

2021 marks the ten-year anniversary of the installation of a 43 kW solar system and a comprehensive emergency efficiency program at Mountain View United Methodist Church. This has allowed the church to become carbon neutral the past five years and save $75,000, with projections of $400,000 in savings over the 30 year lifetime of the solar system. 

Mountain View in Boulder Colorado is a 35,000 sq. ft. building. It houses church offices, a preschool, and numerous church and community programs. Pre-COVID, the church was open 80 hours a week and used approximately 76 MWh of electricity and 19,000 therms of natural gas. This produced a carbon footprint of 150 tons/year. The solar system produces about 63 MWh per year and prevents the emissions of approximately 40 tons of CO2 that Xcel would have generated providing the same amount of electricity.  

A comprehensive set of efficiency measures were implemented which included installing high-efficiency lighting, motion sensors for lighting, programmable thermostats, high-efficiency refrigerators/freezers/HVAC system, and increased insulation.  This reduced the electrical consumption from 76 MWh to 47 MWh per year, a 37% reduction. The excess solar energy that our system produced was fed back into Xcel’s system earning payments of approximately 2 cents per kWh.

Mountain View UMC photo courtesy Nelson Chen
Prior to undertaking these projects, Mountain View’s annual electric bill averaged $11,000. Over the past 10 years, Mountain View has reduced the billing charges by $123,600 due to the solar system, energy efficiency, and installing a demand controller which eliminated the demand rate charges, leaving only a monthly charge of $20. In addition, Xcel made Solar Rec payments of 4.5cents per kWh produced, and 2 cents per kWh for solar production exceeding consumption. These payments total $16,000. The net result to date is a savings of $75,000 AFTER paying for installation and financing. The projected savings over the 30 year lifetime of the system is $400,000.

Mountain View is carbon negative in electricity.  However, about 110 tons of CO2 are emitted per year due to burning natural gas for hot water and heating the building. Starting in 2015 Mountain View partnered with Fort Collins-based nonprofit, Trees Water & People to combat climate change through the sequestration of all the emitted carbon dioxide.  Our Green Earth Team raised funds every year at a Celebration of Creation luncheon.  These funds supported Trees, Water & People’s reforestation and solar heating projects at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and reforestation and high-efficiency clean cookstoves programs in Central America. These projects not only sequester CO2 but also help indigenous communities by providing training, jobs, income, watershed restoration, and restoration and improvement of local ecosystems helping to reduce climate-induced migration. To date, 58 clean stoves have been purchased and 9066 seedlings planted with approximately 371 tons of CO2 sequestered. The projected CO2 sequestration for the stoves and the 10-20 year lifetime of the trees is estimated to be 2,900 tons, far exceeding Mountain View’s carbon emission since 2015 of approximately 550 tons.  

We see no apparent degradation in the solar panels and expect them to last an additional 20 years or more, enabling Mountain View to continue to enjoy near-zero electric bills for many years and to be largely protected from future Xcel electric price increases.  

NEXT STEPS? We are planning to replace all the remaining fluorescent and CFL lighting with the most recent LED technology. This should reduce our yearly electrical usage by another 12 kWh, yielding a 50% reduction from 2010. The cost for these upgrades is expected to be only $1,500.

Want to learn more about how we did this?  Contact us through the Mountain View UMC website.