In order to be a light in their community, College Mennonite Church is on a mission to install solar panels for their sanctuary.CMC’s solar mission is led by David Lapp Jost and Lucas Geiser Godshalk, Goshen College alums from 2011 and 2013 respectively, who have spent the last year formulating the plan for CMC’s solar panels.
CMC is not the first Mennonite church to explore solar panels and will most likely not be the last. Benton Mennonite, Waterford Mennonite and Kern Road are all local congregations that have already invested in solar and renewable energy, some with smaller budgets and congregations.
Not to say that all of this is easy. Even with the strong support from College Mennonite administration, the pastoral staff and the congregation, it takes a lot of leg work to visit and speak with the congregation, meet with donors, send emails and research potential solar companies.
Then the challenge remains to raise the money to fund such a project, which will mostly be gifted from the members of College Mennonite themselves.
But there is no question whether or not the investment is worth the initial cost. The externalities of fossil fuel are well documented, including environmental, health, economic, political and social impacts.
“If we care about injustices involved with building pipelines, air quality problems associated with industrial factories, economic damage done to communities that are built around the coal industry and the effects of fossil fuel on the global climate, then the answer is to reduce demand for coal based projects,” said Lapp Jost.
College Mennonite hopes to install 100 to 150 panels depending on size, space and funds since each of the solar panels cost approximately $930. All of this may sound expensive, but based on a 3.8 percent annual return over 20 to 30 years, the panels should be paid off in 11.5 years.
This means that 12 years from the time CMC installs the solar panels, they should see a return on their investment, a noticeable decrease in their energy consumption and an increase in benefits to their wider Goshen community.
Potential locations for the panels include the grass by Newcomer prairie, the RFC roof or in the parking lot, but there is still much conversation about engineering challenges, visibility and efficiency differences of each place.
Goshen College wouldn’t benefit from the electricity produced at CMC, but the college could garner increased interest from prospective students, as well as gain from the multiple benefits to the community.
The talk of solar power and renewable energy couldn’t come at a better time for Goshen. President Brenneman continued his legacy of commitment to sustainability and attention to climate issues.
This past December, Brenneman joined more than 180 colleges and universities in signing an open letter to President Trump to advocate for sustainable, clean energy.
Besides simply caring, thinking, writing and working for carbon neutrality, Goshen College and its students have the ability to take action and produce their own renewable energy.
“I think Goshen should consider and eventually implement a solar project,” says Lapp Jost. “[Solar panels and renewable energy] would be a way to invest that would be consistent with Goshen’s values.”