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DC-area African American church goes solar

florida avenue baptist church solar panel ribbon cutting

A church installing solar panels… not all that unusual these days, right? Maybe not, but for Washington, DC’s Florida Avenue Baptist Church, the recent ribbon-cutting on a 44 panel solar array represents more than “going green” and cutting energy costs: it’s also a way to address issues of energy and environmental justice and economic stagnation in the local community.

For instance, electricity eats up 25% more of African American incomes than other racial and ethnic groups; average electric costs for black households were $1,439 in 2008, according to the Center for Social Inclusion. And, as EPA director Lisa Jackson noted in her speech at the ribbon-cutting, African American communities “have more sources of pollution in their neighborhoods than others…” The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Earl D. Trent, Jr., sees the solar array as symbolic of a new “green ministry”… but that ministry incorporates all of these social concerns under the umbrella of “green.”

In the short term, the $60,000 solar array will cut the church’s electric bill by about 15%; further improvements to the building’s energy efficiency should increase the savings. The installation also became a job training opportunity for four local residents: installer Volt Energy offered them work on the job, and may hire them for future solar installations in the area. The company also created a green curriculum for the church, “teaching energy efficiency, recycling, and the how-tos of using energy-efficient light bulbs and reading energy bills to children.”

Not bad… and this is the first such installation at a DC-area African American church. Many of the participants in this project see this project as a continuation of the Black church’s role as a hub for social change and community empowerment. Do you agree? Let us know what you think…

via The Great Energy Challenge and @greenforall

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Image credit: US EPA at Flickr