Madison Church is Solar Powered
Original text from the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin
insert of "The Lutheran," March 2003.

The Rev. Jeff Wild, pastor of Advent Lutheran Church, Madison, recalls the cold windy day about two years ago, when his dream of a windmill on the church's property took hold. He had driven to Advent and pulled into the parking lot." When I got out of the car, I had two thoughts," Wild recalled, "First "dear God, let your wind blow in me' in reference to the Holy Spirit. And my second thought was, 'This would be a great place for a windmill."About two months later, a task force was formed to look seriously into the matter. They contacted a meteorologist who does site assessments for windmills and learned that a tower could be erected, but the wind speed would be marginal. "Other concerns were the cost effectiveness of it and the possibility of the neightbors resisting it because of the noise," Wild says, "After really searching out the possibilites, we decided no to do it."

But in the process, the task force became quite eduation about renewable energy and energy conservation. The Madison Christian Community (MCC) - an ecumenical partnership between Advent and Community of Hope, a United Church of Christ congregation - had several energy audits, and a rebate of $1000 from Focus on Energy helped pay to change most of the balance and fluorescent lights in the building to more energy-efficient lighting.

Then the task force turned its focus toward solar-energy. "We had a site assessment done for solar panels, and it was almost like the building was built for solar panels because of the pitch of the roof and the direction it faces," explains Wild.

The site was assessed last spring and by the end of June the MCC had applied for a grant from Wisconsin's Focus on Energy. The solar panelswere up by mid-October and the MCC held a service of dedication on Sunday, November 10.

The photovoltaic energy unit, or solar panel, was funded in part by a $15,000 demonstration grant from Wisconsin's Focus on Energy. In installing the unity, the MCC hopes to reduce energy consumption and emission into the atmosphere, and be a visible example to the general public of the commitment to stewardship of the environment. The faith community also plans to encourage and assist other churches in adopting strategies that reduce their properties impact on the environment.

The MCC is able to track energy use around the clock with a prototype of a computer monitering system hat was installed by Ken Little of Informing Ecological Design, LLC. The church also monitors how much energy comes in through the solar panels and computes the net result. "We're the first church in the country that I know of to have this system in place," Wild said. This energy tracking system can be viewed on the MCC Web site:

In addition to making changes to the building, the 400 members of Advent and Community of Hope have been encouraged to make lifestyle changes that are environmentally responsible. A Stewardship of Our Natural Resources Fair as held at the church in January of 2002, and members made pledges to adopt specific practices as stewards of the environment. During the summer months last year, more than 30 members participated on two eco-teams, learning about steps they could make as individuals to make their life more sustainable.

While this recent emphasis on stewardship of creation has brought about the dramatic addition of a photovoltaic energy unit, the MCC has a long history of caring for the environment. When the original church building was constructed in 1970, it was built to be shared by the two congregations. Much of the MCC's five-acre site has been restored to native prairie and a portion of the property is divided into community garden plots. Also the church has an annual tradition of sending its high school youth to the Boundary Waters, "which fosters an appreciation of creation," Wild said.

The solar panels on the MCC roof will reduce the building's energy consumption by as much as 25 percent, Wild says. His prayer for sunny days is now "Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus."

or more information see the congregational website at: