Bloomfield church goes solar-powered

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Caring for natural resources were in the declarations and prayers of members of Brookdale Reformed Church this past Saturday when 110 solar panels, recently installed on the church roof and Fellowship Hall, were activated. It was estimated by Jim Thompson, chairman of the church properties committee, that Brookdale Reformed will not have to pay an electric bill for the last 18 years of the 30-year lifespan of the panels. It is thought that the church is the first Bloomfield house of worship to commit to solar power.

“God gave us this green earth to be stewards,” Thompson said to three dozen people standing in the driveway before three brand-new electrical boxes, attached to a rear, exterior wall of the church, waiting for the switch to be flipped. “God didn’t say, ‘Come and destroy the earth.’”

Pastor Susan Dorward commended her church for being progressive and called on other churches to follow its lead. She said Jesus teaches one to think outside, the box but she prayed, too.

“Lord, guide us and hold our hand,” Dorward said with head bowed. “You make us see with different hearts. Make this be an example for others to show the power of your son, S-O-N, and the sun.”

Dorward said she got the idea for the panels when, outside working on a sermon, she watched the sun move across the church roof. She brought the idea to Thompson.

“Jim got it into his spirit and ran with it,” she said.
According to Thompson, the church received a $145,000 loan from the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics of the Reformed Church of America, to purchase and install the panels. The synod is an organization that oversees and supports reformed churches through a variety of services, including funding.

An engineer by profession, Thompson told the gathering, under overcast skies, that during the 30-year lifetime of the panels, 1.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide will be prevented from being released into the atmosphere. He said this amount of carbon dioxide would have been produced over 30 years had the electricity been generated by coal, oil or natural gas. This figure, or something close to it, he said, was cited by various solar companies when he went shopping for the panels.

“To consume that much carbon dioxide, we would have to plant 13,222 trees,” he said.
Thanks to the solar panels, other savings to the atmosphere, over 30 years, will be five tons of sulphur dioxide and 1 1/2 tons of nitric oxide, according to Thompson.

The church made its purchase from GeoscapeSolar, located in Livingston.
After the panels were activated, everyone went into the church for sun-themed refreshments, which included sun dried tomatoes, sunflower seeds and sun-shaped cookies. Elected officials on hand were Mayor Michael Venezia, Councilwoman Wartyna Davis and Councilmen Nicholas Joanow and Carlos Pomares.

In a telephone interview earlier this week, Thompson explained several of the benefits of going solar.
“Solar panels produce direct current electricity,” he said. “It goes into a converter which produces electricity of 110 volts and 60 cycles.”

These are converted by the boxes in the driveway.
He said the church will use what electricity it needs and then send the excess to the electric grid of PSE&G where it will be stored.

“At nighttime, whatever excess we put on the grid, comes back to us,” Thompson said. “If we need more, PSE&G will sell it to us. At the end of the year, if we have an excess, PSE&G will pay us what it would cost them to generate it.”
Thompson said that the state of New Jersey will also give the church $230 for every 1,000 kilowatts of electricity it produces. He said, in time, this amount of money should decrease as more energy consumers go solar and more electricity becomes available.

An added advantage to Brookdale Reformed Church for going solar at this time was revealed when Jeff Chavkin, president of GeoscapeSolar, announced that his company would donate $1,000 to Brookdale Reformed for each purchase made by someone recommended to his company by the church. This announcement was greeted by those in attendance with “Oohs” and “Aahs.”

“If someone buys a solar system from them and mentions Brookdale Reformed,” Thompson said in his interview, “The church will get $1,000 as a finder’s fee.”