SHREWSBURY: SOLAR RECHARGES CHURCH

20130430-130451.jpgReverend Antonio Parenti, right, and congregant Ken Walsh with the church’s new money-saving solar power system. (Photo above by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

First Assembly of God Church in Shrewsbury describes itself as a “multi-cultural congregation who welcomes and values people from all walks of life.”

Now, thanks to some significant environmentally friendly upgrades, the church can claim to be stewards of the earth, decreasing its environmental footprint and in the process blazing a “green” trail that they hope others will follow, according to Reverend Antonio Parenti, senior pastor.

ho first proposed the idea to install photovoltaic solar panels, which convert the sun’s rays into usable electricity, on the roof of the church and it’s office building.

“We’ve definitely become more environmentally conscious in the past few years,” Parenti, who is in his ninth year at the First Assembly, told redbankgreen in his office, adjacent to the Sycamore Avenue church. “Number one, the panels will serve to make the buildings more environmentally friendly, and number two, over time they will save us money – allowing us to use our funds for God more efficiently and effectively.”

Board of trustees member Ken Walsh, a former engineer said he first thought of the possibility of solar panels when he examined the building’s roof space and realized that panels could be installed on the back and sides of the buildings, keeping them out of regular eyesight while still absorbing the sun’s energy-giving rays.

The panels were installed and turned on in late December at a total costs of $132,480. The church opted to purchase them outright instead of renting or leasing.

But the estimated 30-year return on electricity bills alone is $243,160 according to TerraSol, a company out of Glen Mills, PA that produced and installed the panels.

Parenti and Walsh said the panels can provide more than half the electricity needed for each building on sunny days, and that they weren’t the only energy-saving endeavor the church has undertaken.

“We also had an energy audit recently,” Parenti said. “We had a group out of Lake Como come in and inspect our insulation and air ducts, making sure they run as efficiently as possible.”

Though Walsh said it was a little too early to fully gauge how much energy is being created by the panels and in turn how much money is being saved, he and Parenti are confident that the project will prove successful, particularly in summer months, when air conditioning becomes a drain on electric bills.

“We think it will prove to be a smart, prudent decision, not only financially but environmentally and spiritually as well,” Parenti said. “The response from our members as well as town officials has been nothing but positive so far.”

“If it encourages people to come here and visit us as well, that’s always a benefit,” Walsh added. “Hopefully, we can show people that a life with God in it is a much better life: ‘Come check out our rechargeable panels, and recharge your spiritual life at the same time.’”