Something new under the sun

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June 6, 2012 | Focus On | Number 12
By Jane Snyder, Special to Canadian Mennonite
Erb Street Mennonite Church, Waterloo, Ont., had new solar panels installed last month.

There’s nothing new under the sun, the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, but in Waterloo Region, Ont., there are lots of new things under the sun: solar projects, that is!

For the past several years, Mennonite churches and institutions have been investigating—and installing—solar photovoltaic panels. Mennonite-based solar projects include Erb Street Mennonite Church and Mennonite Savings and Credit Union’s branch, both in Waterloo; Hillcrest Mennonite Church, New Hamburg; Elmira Mennonite Church; and Rockway Mennonite Collegiate and the House of Friendship’s Eby Village, both in Kitchener.

Representatives from the credit union and the Elmira and Hillcrest congregations spoke about their solar programs at the May 12 “Powerful Investing” conference in Kitchener that was organized by REEP Green, Community Renewable Energy Waterloo (CREW) and Greening Sacred Spaces Waterloo/Wellington/Dufferin.

In addition to being involved in their church or institutional solar projects, however, many Mennonites are also involved in renewable energy organizations such as CREW (www.crewzone.ca) and LIFE Co-op (www.lifecoop.ca), a renewable energy cooperative based in Kitchener.

“With the passing of the Green Energy Act, Ontario is now one of the most attractive jurisdictions in North America for individual home owners, businesses and co-ops to start producing their own clean energy and making a difference for the environment,” commented Glen Woolner of CREW.

Community-based cooperative renewable energy projects are gaining ground. Both CREW and LIFE Co-op are organizing clean, renewable energy investment opportunities. LIFE Co-op investors receive a rate of return comparable to the interest rates being offered by lending institutions on investment vehicles such as GICs, money market funds and high-interest accounts.

Guelph is home to Ontario’s largest community-financed solar cooperative, Hall’s Pond, coordinated by Guelph Solar. RRSP-eligible, Hall’s Pond promises rates of return starting at 5 percent. Future Guelph Solar projects include installations at faith-based institutions such as the Ignatius Jesuit Centre and the Wellington Catholic District School Board.

Mennonite Savings and Credit Union sees the 7kw solar array on its Waterloo branch as an important way to “walk the talk” after introducing its Creation Care loan program to members. “The Creation Care Loan is offered to individual members, churches and farms for solar, geo-thermal or other projects as part of an eco-energy upgrade,” said Ben Janzen, the credit union’s stewardship in action advisor. Erb Street Mennonite Church recently secured a Creation Care loan to finance its solar array that was installed last month.

Inspired by solar projects? Consider joining the Greening Sacred Spaces Network to keep up to date on the latest clean energy trends, projects and events, or checking out Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Ontario’s Creation Care Crossroads blog.

“The Creation Care Crossroads blog [www.mcco.ca/creationcare] offers inspiration for God’s creation by telling stories of simple living, climate justice and peace with creation,” said creator Darren Kropf. “Rather than dwell on the problem, let’s focus on the creative solutions, and the type of future we believe God has in store for us.”

Jane Snyder is the Waterloo/Wellington/Dufferin coordinator of the Greening Sacred Spaces Network (www.
greeningsacredspaces.net/waterloo).

Erb Street Mennonite Church, Waterloo, Ont., had new solar panels installed last month.

Solar electric panels at Hillcrest Mennonite Church, New Hamburg, Ont. (2011).

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