'Caring for creation'
Solar panels are just the latest example of St Luke Lutheran Church's commitment to sustainability
When Vernon Johnson and his associates looked up at the slanted roof of St. Luke Lutheran Church on Southwest California Street, they saw an opportunity.
"We just looked at this nice, south-facing roof at this high angle and thought, 'That'd be a nice place to put solar panels!'" Johnson said.
Johnson is a member of the church's Environmental Stewardship Committee, which recently helped arrange for the installation of 114 solar panels. Originally proposed in 2014, the plan just recently came to fruition and the panels are now fully operational.
The committee facilitated a mix of funding to cover the installation project. A little less than half is from Energy Trust Incentive of Oregon. The rest came from member donations, even as the church was simultaneously coordinating a $2.7 million expansion project that is still underway.
Pastor David Knapp, senior pastor at St. Luke, said the congregation seemed largely in favor of the installation. In fact, many church members already had panels installed on their private residences.
Johnson anticipates the panels will offset about 50 to 60 percent of energy use from the typical power grid. St. Luke has an interconnection agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric to get a credit when its solar energy production exceeds its energy costs and goes back into the grid at large.
Though the plan took hold because of its feasibility, Knapp said the church also saw the installation as a way to emphasize the faith roots of its green efforts.
"We come at it from a spiritual perspective," Knapp said. "That doesn't mean only Christian — I think as people of faith and other groups in society, we want to care for the gift of creation."
Members of St. Luke often use the phrase "caring for creation" to describe efforts relating to environmental stewardship. Johnson's committee oversees partnerships with a variety of advocacy groups advancing environmentalist goals; it also facilitates St. Luke's recycling program for items not accepted during curbside pickup, such as batteries and Styrofoam.
"Our purpose was to reduce our electrical consumption, which of course is part of reducing our carbon footprint as a congregation, but also to be an example," Johnson said.
Knapp agreed, noting that he was pleased with how the solar panels could be a physical representation of the priorities of the church and faith.
"One of the tangible things is that we care for creation, and that's always been part of our faith," Knapp said. "And now it's very visible."