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Presbyterians get power from the heavens

COURTESY PHOTO New solar panels atop the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall.
New solar panels atop the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall.

One of Reverend Stephen Fearing’s legacies to Shelter Island Presbyterian Church came to fruition this month with installation of solar panels on both the church on North Ferry Road and the manse on Thomas Avenue.

Reverend Fearing worked with the church’s building and grounds committee — John Kerr, Dan Binder, Ellen Gove and Ken Pysher — to conduct an energy audit in 2014 that resulted in several steps:
• Installation of energy saving light bulbs.
• Insulation in the roofs and floors.
• New flashing and new weather-tight windows.
• Installation of the solar panels.

“While the first three steps were taken relatively quickly after the audit was completed, installation of the solar panels that would save the most energy and money for the congregation had to be delayed until this year because it “required too much up-front money from a church with limited finances,” according to a press release. Many small churches and nonprofit organizations face the same problem.

Reverend Fearing met Ryan Madden of “Power Up Long Island,” a nonprofit working on the issue regionally, and the two men were able to collaborate to secure a low-interest loan from the Presbyterian Church USA to draft a request for proposals to launch the project.

SUNation Solar Systems of Ronkonkoma was the low bidder and awarded the contract.

The congregation will be able to reduce its monthly mortgage payments lower than its monthly electric costs. There will be a positive cash flow from the outset and, over time, the system of solar panels will pay for itself.

“We frequently sing a hymn, ‘For the Beauty of the Earth,’ and hear from scripture about how we must care for God’s creation,” said Ms. Gove, the church’s clerk of session. “Now we, as a church, are giving some real meaning to these words,”

The church is the first public institution on the Island to do a solar installation. Church treasurer Peter Vielbig said others should join in this effort to protect the environment.

“With the right financing and properly engineered project, it is a win-win from all aspects,” Mr. Vielbig said.