Church adds solar to stewardship mission

Anne BrockAnderson, Our Town Outdoors

Faith Lutheran Church plans on putting faith and stewardship into action with its new solar project getting support from Uncle Sam through the Direct Pay program. The Oak Ridge congregation is enlisting the Knoxville solar firm Solar Alliance Southeast to add a 15.3-kilowatt solar array atop its facility. The photovoltaic system of 34 modules will create electricity to cover a portion of what is needed for worship and community gatherings.

“From its inception, Oak Ridge has been a leader with respect to energy technology,” said the Rev. George Smith, Faith Lutheran’s associate pastor. “We have studied the feasibility of using solar panels for some time now, but could not quite justify the cost until we met with Solar Alliance, who proposed an affordable installation. Then when the federal government announced incentives that extended to nonprofits, we were already primed to proceed.”

In place of the 30% tax break that a for-profit business would receive for adding solar, the church could qualify for a check back from the federal government, after project completion, to cover 30% of the cost. You can read more details about Direct Pay for nonprofits here from

For Faith Lutheran Church, the decision to add renewable energy came after much analysis, committee discussion and prayer organized by lay leader William Koch. “As the church’s treasurer, I saw that increasing cost of electricity was diverting funds away from other important missions of our church,” said Koch. “Solar panels were an attractive option, after considering window films and other energy-saving alternatives.”

Faith Lutheran Church hosts and supports several different ministries in addition to weekly worship services. The church has hosted multiple training sessions for prospective foster parents, gathers nonperishable foods to coordinate with another local church food pantry and hosts quilters who supply finished quilts to the Lutheran World Mission. Other mission efforts support free medical care for those in need, safe activities for teens, seminary education and prison outreach.

“This federal support for nonprofits allows a one-time investment to provide savings for decades to come. Just like teaching a man to fish feeds him for a lifetime, access to renewable energy incentives for nonprofits means they can reduce one of their biggest expenses and utilize their savings to further invest across the community.” said Solar Alliance vice president Harvey Abouelata.

The church along Oak Ridge Turnpike marks its 79th anniversary on February 13. “In effect, we are taking God’s ever-abundant gift of Tennessee sunshine and using it to provide ministry in His name to Tennessee people in need,” said the Rev. Smith.

Anne Brock is marketing coordinator for Solar Alliance. She can be reached at: 865-221-8349 or [email protected]

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