Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship reached its goal of becoming carbon neutral in 2021 with the installation of a solar panel array. This means at least as much energy is now produced as is used annually, and all the energy is solar powered!
The solar panels are mounted on a steel frame located at the back of Starr King’s property on Morgan Drive. Currently, the system is fully operational, producing ~44,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) worth of electricity, which is enough to meet 100% of the 2022 usage and future estimated energy needs of the Fellowship building, or enough for 6 households.
The project was developed by Barrington Power and New England Commercial Solar Services. Pursuant to an agreement between Barrington Power and Starr King UU, known as a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), Barrington Power designed, built, and owns the solar energy system and will operate it for five years, selling the electricity generated to Starr King. At the end of five years, Starr King plans to purchase the array and become the sole owner and operator. PPAs are often used by non-profit entities such as schools and towns to buy solar energy.
Starr King’s minister, the Reverend Linda Barnes, is excited at the progress the Fellowship has made in becoming carbon neutral. “We recently installed two electric boilers and two mini-split heat pumps, so, with the solar array, all our heat is solar powered. The array also generates enough to meet all our needs for other electricity.”
More importantly, becoming carbon neutral demonstrates one of the key principles of Unitarian Universalism: ‘respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part.’ It also supports an aspect of Starr King’s mission and vision statement: ‘we live and model our values, collectively creating social and environmental justice with direct action and financial support.'
According to Ted Vansant, clean energy consultant, the benefits of being carbon neutral include no longer producing emissions from burning oil to heat the building, helping reduce the amount of fossil fuel-produced electricity on the electric grid, and simplifying the maintenance of the heating system.