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Danbury congregation hopes to set solar example
by Katrina Koerting who covers the environment, Redding, New Milford and surrounding towns for The News-Times. March 4, 2017

DANBURY — Ninety-six solar panels cover one side of the roof at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury, making it the city’s first religious institution to go solar.

But the congregation hopes other places of worship will follow suit and explore solar, whether as congregations or as individuals.

“We want to be an example of how this can be done and how it can pay for itself,” said Gary Mummert, a member of the congregation’s Green Team. “We hope to incentivize and encourage other congregations in the Danbury area to join us.

Two years ago, the congregation unanimously voted to move away from fossil fuels over the next 20 years. The rooftop system came online Jan. 8 and generates 32,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, or about four times as much as the congregation needs.

Eversource buys that excess power and pays the congregation $3,000 annually for being a generator, which helps cover the cost of the $120,000 system. The $4,000 or so the church would have put toward annual energy bills are instead put toward the cost of the panels.

When people look at just the numbers, it’s frightening, and when they see the price tag they don’t see how it will work,” Mummert said. “I want to show them how you can and (that) the state of Connecticut has a lot of incentives to do this.”

The congregation saved additional energy by better insulating the two buildings on the property. Oil boilers have been replaced with heat pumps, which use electricity to pull heat from the outside air.

Mummert said the congregation decided to make the switch away from fossil fuels for ecological reasons.

“One of our values is to respect the web of all life, which means planet Earth, humans, animals — all life,” he said. “The reason I do this is because I have grandchildren and I know one day they’ll say, ‘Grandpa what did you do when you knew about climate change?’ and I want to have a good answer for them.”