Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, shown, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, above, along with Temple Har Shalom all received a $35,000 Blue Sky
Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, shown, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, above, along with Temple Har Shalom all received a $35,000 Blue Sky grant from Rocky Mountain Power for solar panels. These three were among 14 houses of worship across Utah that received grants. (Photo by Christopher Reeves/Park Record)
In the early 2000s, Rocky Mountain Power established its Blue Sky program that helps its customers support renewable energy development in the West.

Customers enroll in the program by filling out a form that comes with their electric bill. Once enrolled, they can purchase points that will add to funds that Rocky Mountain Power uses to buy renewable-energy certificates from renewable-energy facilities. The electricity from these facilities is delivered to the regional power grid, which helps build markets for renewable energy, and distributes grants to help support community-based projects and nonprofit organizations.

Last year, the program awarded $1.8 million to nonprofits across the state. A total of 14 churches and synagogues received a grant, and three of them — St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church and Temple Har Shalom — are in Park City.

Each received $35,000 that went to installing solar arrays on their respective buildings.

"2013 was a banner year for solar projects on houses of worship," said Susan Soleil, executive director of Utah Interfaith Power & Light, in a statement. "Most of these faith communities would never be able to afford solar arrays without the financial support of Utah's Blue Sky customers. Ultimately, it is their generosity that made it possible for 14 houses of worship to demonstrate their commitment to care for creation and the poor by purchasing energy that is clean and renewable."

Reverend Charles Robinson of St.


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Luke's Episcopal Church said the idea for the church to apply for the grant stemmed from his own interest in solar power.

"A couple of years go, my wife and I wanted to do something positive for the environment," Robinson said. "We certainly make our contribution to the carbon that goes into the atmosphere, so we wanted to do something positive."

The Robinsons found out they could receive a state and federal tax benefit if they put solar panels on their house.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, shown, along with Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church and Temple Har Shalom all received a $35,000 Blue Sky grant
St. Luke's Episcopal Church, shown, along with Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church and Temple Har Shalom all received a $35,000 Blue Sky grant from Rocky Mountain Power for solar panels. These three were among 14 houses of worship across Utah that received grants. (Photo courtesy St. Luke's Episcopal Church)
So they called DwellTek, an organization that offers solar-power solutions in Park City.

"We asked them to come over and work up a plan, and six months later, we installed 18 solar panels on the roof of our home," Robinson said. "That got me thinking about whether or not the church could do this."

DwellTek informed Robinson about the Blue Sky grant program.

"We applied and received notice that we were going to get the grant," Robinson said. "It allowed us to install about 30 panels on the church, and we plan to build on that to get 250 panels total on the church in the coming years."

Robinson said he is happy St. Luke's is one of the Park City-based buildings that received the money.

"It's great to have three of us in that mix," he said. "There are cities in Germany where all their energy is generated by solar power, because solar panels are on every building in the city. There's no reason why we can't do that here. So, hopefully that's where we're headed."

On Saturday, May 3, during the church's annual Wine and Swine fundraiser for Peace House, Robinson will give a little presentation about the solar panels.

"We'll have a little prayer session," he said.

Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church was awarded the grant through the work of one of its congregants, Timothy Fehr.

"I was involved with Summit County Solar program that included folks from Park City and the county," Fehr said. "It was for residential projects, so I looked into what I could do for the church and came up with information about the Blue Sky program."

Fehr teamed up with Synergy Power, a solar-panel installation company, to put together a proposal to submit to Rocky Mountain Power.

"We wanted solar panels to be installed on the first phase of the new renovation of the church," Fehr said.

Rocky Mountain Power contacted the church in November.

"We didn't get as much as we had put in the proposal, so we made adjustments and installed the panels in January," Fehr said. "They are very visible from S.R. 224 and the road to Canyons."

Fehr feels utilizing solar power is important for his church.

"First off, we're Shepherd of the Mountains," he said. "We have a responsibility to be environmental stewards. As part of that, we look for things that will help reduce our carbon footprint and to be more compatible with nature."

Secondly, the church has already reduced its expenditure for electrical usage in the building.

"That gives us more money to apply to other areas of our stewardships," he said.

On Sunday, May 18, at 2 p.m., Shepherds of the Mountain will host a building dedication and open house for the expansion and show the public the panels.

The Blue Sky application process had already started when Lynn Suksdorf became executive director of Temple Har Shalom last June.

"I became familiar with the process and in late fall, we received word that we were recipients of the grant," Suksdorf said.

Like the Shepherd of the Mountains situation, the grant wasn't as much as Temple Har Shalom requested, but Suksdorf said it is a great start.

"We hope to apply again to expand the panel array," he said. "We are glad to have it because it's important for us to have it for a variety of reasons."

One reason is that the idea of moving toward a greener energy source ties in the synagogue's stewardship philosophy.

"As part of the faith, we need to be mindful of the environment," Suksdorf said. "Also, I think it's important for Temple Har Shalom and other religious communities in the area to provide or be the example, if you will, for other businesses, organizations and people to see."

So far, the example has worked.

"I know that a couple of our congregants have informed me that they plan to install solar panels on their private home roofs," Suksdorf said. "That helps cut down energy consumption and taps into a greener source."

The solar panels at on the temple also serve as an educational element.

"We have a monitor in our building so people can see what is being produced in energy," Suksdorf said.

The panels were installed last February, after the Sundance Film Festival.

"As you know, we are a Sundance venue, which is wonderful, because the array ties into their green initiative," Suksdorf said. "We're proud of the affiliation with them because it's such a great relationship.

"We're hoping through additional applications in the future that we can reach an array in the size that will help with actual savings in energy consumption for the synagogue," he said.

For more information about Blue Sky, visit rockymountainpower.net/bluesky .