First Congregational United Church of Christ, Asheville
20 Oak St., Asheville, NC 28801
Contact: Pastor Joe Hoffman, email@example.com
First Congregational United Church of Christ, Asheville is the first congregation in North Carolina to use this model. They dedicated their 10KW solar system at a Solarbration on April 3, 2011. It was featured in a news story in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Asheville Church Puts Faith in Solar Power. The project was developed by the Earth Team with the full support of Pastor Joe Hoffman, who had been promoting the idea for several years.
Members of the Earth Team, members of the church, and some interested outside parties formed a Limited Liability Corporation, First Solar LLC, to finance the project. First Solar LLC leased roof space from the church, and all of the electricity is being sold to Progress Energy. First Solar also is selling their Renewable Energy Tax Credits to North Carolina Green Power. At the end of 6 years, First Solar plans to donate the system to the church. Although the Church does not benefit financially directly from the solar array, other than the lease payment, during this time period, after the solar panels are donated, they will have full financial benefit for the life of system from that time forward.
A reflection from Pastor Joe Hoffman on the project:
Our approach was to invite investors to purchase a share – which was valued at $5000, and thus each investor became a partner in the LLC. We ended up with 9 investors, some who bought more than 1 share, and a couple who split a share with another person.
The rest of the congregation was then invited to donate to a solar fund so that we might have money to purchase the panels from the LLC in 5-6 years – according to what the financial model indicated. Those persons would write a check to the church, it could be any amount, and would receive a notice from the church of this tax free contribution. In this way, everyone still gets to be a contributor, and the original investors do not face a possible small loss of their investment when it is time to sell the panels to the church. (The church does not want our original investors to lose money – they could have earned money on that investment in some other kind of investment on the market – but they chose to invest socially, and we want to honor that.)
So far, the church has had no costs associated with the solar panels. And yet, we have gotten free great publicity in the press, we have used the results of our panels for educational purposes to inform people of why this is important, etc. It has been a win/win. We are considering doing the same kind of LLC for a different kind of green energy project in our church because this process has worked so well with the solar panels.