Cleveland Church Makes an Easy Switch to Wind Energy
July 18, 2016
If there’s one thing we Clevelanders love to do, it’s grumble. We gripe about our lake-effect snow. We make sport of our losing Browns. But one of the things we complain about most—the weather—may provide a big win for Northeast Ohio in the near future.
Cleveland’s oldest Presbyterian Church is showing the city that congregations, businesses and individuals don’t have to wait to start using the power of the wind; there’s an easy, cost-effective way of doing it now.
Almost six months before Fred.Olsen Renewables, an Oslo -based energy producer, announced in December that it was partnering with the nonprofit Lake Erie Energy Development Co. to build a $120 million offshore wind farm near Cleveland, that city’s historic Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian) decided to go clean and green by switching from nonrenewable sourced energy to wind.
A member of our board of directors—a semiretired lawyer with strong convictions about eco-justice—had suggested the idea of wind power for our 160-year-old building. When the board discovered how easy it would be to purchase wind-generated electricity, there was little debate. And for Presbyterians concerned about leaving the legacy of a healthy earth for our children’s children, it was well worth the small expense and the small effort to make the switch.
Admittedly, we were relieved when we discovered that we didn’t need to affix a windmill to the roof of the church. Nor did we need to upgrade our electrical system. A much simpler solution was available.
Old Stone partnered with Arcadia Power, one of many renewable energy certificate (REC) providers—companies that source wind energy from third-party wind farms in other parts of the country and pool it in the electrical grid. By partnering with a REC (pronounced “rek”) provider, an equal amount of the electricity we draw from the grid is replenished with wind-generated electricity. Our current utilities provider still delivers power to us in a conventional way; no system conversion was necessary.
As a result of little effort, our congregation is now helping the US Department of Energy achieve its goal of having 20 percent of the US electrical supply sourced from wind by 2030.
If your congregation is considering something similar, just make sure that the company you partner with is legitimate. Research “green power partnerships” through the Environmental Protection Agency or check out green-e.org, an independent consumer protection program specializing in the sale of renewable energy.
Be prepared, though; there is a slight increase in expense with RECs. For Old Stone Church, the monthly cost for wind is about 2.5 percent higher than before. However, as more people participate, not only will the amount of renewable
energy in the grid increase, pushing us ever closer to that 20 percent target, prices will come down, too.
Driving prices down may be where a grassroots movement of small organizations, churches and individuals can help larger corporations, eventually, make the switch, as well. I recently discussed RECs with a colleague who manages a skyscraper in Cleveland. While she is a good steward and very supportive, she says that for her building, just a 2.5 percent increase alone could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. For us, as a church, the increase is a little easier to absorb at less than $750 per year.
In the meantime, the way we see it, participating in a REC program is a good investment in healthy, sustainable and just communities and in the future of God’s good earth. And for faithful Clevelanders, that should be nothing to grumble about.
Dr. R. Mark Giuliano, Senior Pastor, Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian), Cleveland, Ohio
Let us join in prayer for:
Linda Badger Becker, Transitional General Presbyter
Rev. Jessica MacMillan, Stated Clerk/Associate Presbyter for Equipping Leaders
Laura VanDale, Hunger Action Advocate
Laurel Steinetz, Intern for Cyber-ministries
Josh Daum, Office Administrator
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Lord, give us the willingness to love others to the point of sharing our faith intimately with them in deed and in words. Help us to appreciate the least of these in our midst. Amen.