Mayflower

Well, folks, I’m losing my patience with yahoos’ hatred of solar. I keep hearing rumblings and screeches blasting Minnesota’s 1.5% solar mandate and solar generally.  What’s that about?  A temper tantrum?  ENOUGH!  It’s gotten so bad that I think it’s time for a metaphorical whack upside the head.  It’s clearly not something that can be addressed with a rational discussion and/or more information.

A couple days ago, there was an article in the STrib about Mayflower Church’s solar project, following on the heels of ALJ Eric Lipman’s resource acquisition recommendation finding that solar was the least cost alternative (and related STrib article) for Xcel in this planning round:

ALJ Recommendation 201312-95007-01

I read the STrib story on that Lipman recommendation (see Massive solar plan for Minnesota wins bid over gas), and the comments following it were so bizarre and hateful.  Ugly stuff.  WTF???  People were spewing things that were so patently false that I’d laugh if all that hate weren’t attached.  The hate attached makes it a problem.  The nastiness and flagrant disregard for easily discoverable facts and basic nuts and bolts of administrative process is at such a disturbing level that it shouts “sociopathology!”  With freedom of speech comes responsibility of speech, and I’m tired of the vitriol.  Put a muzzle on it!  It’s like 2 year olds having a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way (and there’s another article about those 2 year olds in the STrib lately… see Violent criminals behave exactly like uncivilized 2 year olds).

Solar isn’t anything new, and it’s getting better and better.  It follows peak, which reduces peak demand, gives us a cushion and reduces need for new generation — it’s just exactly what we need, on every rooftop possible.  DUH, it doesn’t belong on prime ag land, and DUH, we don’t want to go around frying birds or blowing 200 degree air into the neighbor’s homes, but get those panels on our roofs!  NOW!

So anyway, there’s an article Friday about Mayflower’s project.  Here’s the church, and there’s the steeple (people are actually saying they took down the steeple for solar… eh?)

Mayflower-UCCThe physical building has changed since the photo way above at the top.  Mayflower built a sanctuary attached to the circa 60s education building and vacated the big ol’ white church, which was renovated and repurposed — it is now the Museum of Russian Art!

I grew up at Mayflower, had to go there ever Sunday until I moved out, and I gleefully participated in both the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. sections of the confirmation classes, hey, what can I say, I love to argue theology/philosophy, though I did choose not to get confirmed.  My parents were both Deacons for a long, long time, and active in various committees, including Benevolence, Social Action, Guild, Women’s Circle, and I know that the church has a long history of contribution locally, nationwide and internationally.

It was a thrill to see Rev. Sarah Campbell in the STrib showing off their solar project.  They’ve had an energy mission, both educational and in fixing up the physical plant/planet, and a solar project fits in well with what they do.  But after the article, I see the comments… What is wrong with people, the vile nastiness spewing out is so weird.  They’re saying things about this church that are so far off base, that show they know nothing about it’s mission or history, and it’s just hateful.  What is it about solar, about this project that scares people so?  What is it about these commenters that they go so far off the deep end in their objections?

Objections and demonstrably false statements range from claims that it’s not a Christian church, that they build this huge solar project but didn’t make updates in their heat and insulation, that the church didn’t put Creekside Commons housing together, that the church built this project when instead they should “FEED THE POOR” and help people in need, that this is an example of the press supporting “radical hippie godless-element churches,” the article is “a masterful reassertion of Carbon Cult dogma,” that Mayflower is trying to tell other people how to live, that in Minneapolis “the loons aren’t always birds, solar panel owners are stealing from the ratepayers, “I think your god is Al Gore not the Lord,” that “liberalism can only be understood as a secularized religion. Abortion, “social justice,” and environmentalism are among its most cherished sacraments,” “espite mounting evidence to the contrary, no rational argument or recitation of facts will ever convince Ms. Campbell that anthropogenic global warming does not exist, or that installing taxpayer-funded solar panels on her church roof does nothing to advance “social justice.”  “Everything they do is a social statement. These folks can’t take a leak without making it into a social statement.”

I just don’t get it.  Someone please enlighten me.  What is this anger about?  It’s nuts, and I need to stop trying to make sense of this.

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Minneapolis congregation fosters sun worship of a different sort

Minneapolis UCC church installs solar panels as social statement

Sarah Campbell would like churches everywhere to supplement the cross with a new symbol of hope — solar panels.

That, she said, is exactly what the 750 members of the Mayflower United Church of Christ did last week when they flipped the switch on one of the largest solar arrays in Minneapolis as a brazen and public strike against climate change.

“We don’t have physical or spiritual space for despair anymore,” Campbell, the church’s lead minister, said Thursday. “I am really hopeful that we can turn this thing.”

In fact, it may already be working.

Just days after Mayflower’s 204 Minnesota-made panels were turned on in the icy sunshine, an administrative law judge concluded that solar is a better deal for the state and Xcel Energy than investments in new natural-gas generators. If the decision is upheld by the state Public Utilities Commission, it will open the door to massive solar installations across the state and potentially a sevenfold increase in solar power.

In addition, solar gardens are sprouting all over town. Those jointly owned solar arrays allow electric customers to invest in a project built somewhere off their property and own a share of the output. Their share of the electricity gets credited to their monthly bills. At least three are in the works in Minneapolis and elsewhere in the state.

For the members of the Mayflower Church, which sits at the corner of Diamond Lake Road and 35W and is part of the United Church of Christ, the energy project fit right into its historically liberal mission. It was among the first denominations to accept female and gay clergy. Mayflower considers itself a church of big dreams — symbolized by the giant dream catcher sculpture hanging from the roof of the sanctuary — and it does not dream humbly, said Campbell.

As a delegate to the World Council of Churches, Campbell was among those who persuaded the group to sign a letter to President Obama urging him to say no to the Keystone Pipeline proposed for carrying Canadian oil across the middle of the United States. At its annual synod last year, the United Church of Christ agreed to divest itself of all investments in fossil fuels and to adopt a goal of carbon neutrality.

“Humility is a nice trait. But when you are doing justice, it does not work well,” she said. “And church organizations can be powerful ways to create change.”

Built to be noticed

The congregation wanted the solar panels to get noticed — so it built a steel frame to hold one-fourth of them above the front door of the church. The others are largely hidden on the flat roof of the two-story education building behind the church. Only airplanes can see them, Campbell said.

It took five years of planning and a fundraising campaign to generate the $200,000 needed for the entire energy efficiency project. In addition to the solar panels that march in south-facing rows across the roof and the portico, the church also replaced its boiler, added insulation and put in more energy efficient light switches. In all, it has reduced its carbon footprint by about 60 percent, said Monte Hilleman, the church member who ran the project. By 2030 the church wants to be totally carbon neutral to set an example for halting climate change.

“How are we going to get there if we don’t tackle buildings?” said Hilleman, who is vice president of real estate and development for the St. Paul Port Authority. In the United States, buildings use about half of the nation’s electricity and produce about half of the carbon emissions that drive climate change, he said.

The financial advantages, though secondary, are considerable. Hilleman said thanks to energy credits and rebates from Xcel, it got $300,000 worth of energy investments that, after tax credits and other financial arrangements, will ultimately cost the church just $30,000. Of course, it had help from lawyers and the solar companies that built the array in figuring out how a tax-exempt church could take advantage of tax credits. But after knitting together an array of financing and cross-leasing agreements, they did it, he said.

Others are noticing. Campbell said she often is asked to speak about the project at other churches, and several members of the Mayflower congregation are looking into putting solar onto their own homes.

“And we are seeing growth in our membership of people who want to do more than talk about it,” Campbell said.

 

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