Minneapolis Green Cost Share

Solar energy helps Sanctuary Covenant Church give back

Powering community in North Minneapolis 

 

Sanctuary Covenant Church in North Minneapolis is dedicated to growing a multiethnic, multigenerational community of Christ's followers. Sanctuary staff have been devoted to their community and making sure everyone they can reach is taken care of since their inception in 2003.

Sanctuary's desire to care for people is what led them to install solar arrays on their worship and office spaces in June of 2019, so they could invest the cost savings from solar in their community. This became more important than ever during the pandemic when the need for both food and compassion were at all-time highs.

 

The solar systems we installed over a year ago have contributed to the church’s energy savings, which we have been able to funnel into the congregation and the greater community.

Andrea Lee, Executive Director of Operations at Sanctuary

Creating Sustainability Ripple Effects

We spoke with Andrea Lee, Executive Director of Operations at Sanctuary, to learn more about their process of installing solar and to check in on the system after more than a year of operation. Sanctuary installed two 39.6 kW-DC solar PV systems on their office and worship spaces.

 

Funding was a big part of making the project possible. Sanctuary Covenant Church is a recipient of the City of Minneapolis’ Green Cost Share funding. The program provides assistance for businesses or multi-family buildings that have a willingness to invest in cleaner, cheaper, and more sustainable energy technologies. In total, Sanctuary secured nearly $40,000 in Green Cost Share support to help offset the cost of installing solar. There are upcoming application deadlines for others looking to fund their solar, energy efficiency, and pollution reduction projects.

In 2019 the City of Minneapolis expanded Green Cost Share to solar energy projects with a priority placed on two "Green Zones." The Green Zone Initiative aims to “improve health and support economic development using environmentally conscious efforts in communities that face the cumulative effects of environmental pollution, as well as social, political, and economic vulnerability.” Sanctuary is located within the Minneapolis Northside Green Zone, where a task force led by community members is addressing the environmental justice overburden in North and Northeast Minneapolis through the design and implementation of a plan of action.

Andrea described Sanctuary's actual solar installation as straightforward, since iDEAL Energies came to the space and figured out the logistics. Andrea estimated that their solar arrays have offset at least 10% of overall electricity bills. She shared some of the overall stats from the system, explaining that they have produced over 126,087 kWh of energy since they were installed. To put this into context, the average household uses 10,600 kWh of energy annually, so Sanctuary could directly offset almost twelve homes with its production.

While the solar installations were Sanctuary's first energy undertaking, their role in the community has sustainability ripple effects. They are showing businesses and families around them how important it is to invest in renewable energy. The church has established themselves as stewards of the environment in their community, and their actions will continue to spread and touch others throughout the years.

 

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Feeding Families with Solar Savings

Andrea emphasized “the importance of practicing social justice and compassion through faith.” For years, Sanctuary has been spearheading community-based projects that connect people to food and shelter, or other resources like community engagement and togetherness.

"The solar systems we installed over a year ago have contributed to the church’s energy savings, which we have been able to funnel into the congregation and the greater community," Andrea shared. She mentioned that for four months of 2020, Xcel Energy has actually sent them a check for the solar they produced above and beyond their own consumption. This money goes directly to the people, because the church uses it for things like their twice-monthly food drives, which started ramping up at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families have relied heavily on Sanctuary during this especially challenging time, and the church may have not had the capacity for this without the help from their solar energy savings.

 

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Andrea described the church’s role as “not a savior, but a resource and partner of the neighborhood that is included in the fabric of our church,” which was extremely evident in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. For their final pre-holiday food drive, the food delivery truck they were expecting did not show up. Lee mentioned that it was snowing and they had no food supplies coming, so they started to quickly pack the Thanksgiving meals they were prepping a few weeks in advance. Community members who drove up to receive their food donations actually got out of their cars and began to volunteer, showing the true partnership and sense of community in serving people.

 

Bringing People Together

Sanctuary sees its space as communal, because it tears down boundaries that may otherwise keep people apart. They offer space for businesses and locals to use, which deepens its ties and offers a safe space for the community. The church also describes the importance of their space being utilized more as a “multi-purpose auditorium, not just a Sunday-only room,” which is an important part of what Sanctuary does. The church offers many other programs and projects that people in the community can benefit from, like a program called Royal Hood that aims to connect and educate youth from birth to 5th grade, allowing children to interact with ideas of faith and other children their age.

Overcoming Obstacles & Hope for the Future

As North Minneapolis clean energy pioneers and stewards, Sanctuary faced some obstacles on their path to solar energy. Andrea talked about their research and work they put into installing solar energy. Without a clear path to look to for guidance, it at first seemed difficult. However, with the help of the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team, Great Plains Institute, the City of Minneapolis, and iDEAL Energies, Sanctuary was able to overcome logistical challenges and get their solar projects installed.

Other challenges were not so easy to control. Andrea and other church members feared damage to the solar panels during the civil unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd, fear fueled further by the church’s close proximity to a liquor store. They were relieved to find that their buildings and solar arrays suffered no damage. Other buildings that did get damaged can benefit for expanded Green Cost Share funding for recovery.

Sanctuary hopes to get involved with more clean energy and energy efficiency projects in the near future. They are committed to making their space greener as well as using the renewable energy savings to spread love to the greater North Minneapolis region. The staff and volunteers at Sanctuary also hope that their adoption of solar technology will encourage and push other businesses, families, and schools to do the same.

 

Project Snapshots

Office:

  • System Size: 39.96 kW-DC
  • Project Costs: $137,500
  • Minneapolis Green Cost Share Funding: $19,383.35
  • Estimate of Annual Production (kWh/year): 55,381

Worship Space:

  • System Size: 39.96 kW-DC
  • Project Costs: $137,500
  • Minneapolis Green Cost Share Funding: $19,383.35
  • Estimate of Annual Production (kWh/year): 51,756
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