Solar and Houses of Worship Part 2

Wallis Calaway
Climate Crisis Task Force - Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church

“Because of the climate crisis, we need to be doing everything we can to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels… the best thing to do was to put solar panels on the church.”

– Wally Calaway

The following is an excerpt of an interview by Environment Texas with Wally Calaway. Dr. Calaway has led Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church’s Climate (BAUCC) Crisis Task from its inception through the installation of the church’s solar panel array. The questions and responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

It is important to note that the BAUUC’s efforts to reduce fossil fuels over the past few years were not a one person effort, but took a team. The video below shows two other members, Clif Grim and Ivar Larson, who joined Dr. Calaway. Both were extremely active members of the Climate Crisis Task Force and were instrumental in its success and are also deserving of recognition. Environment Texas would also like to thank everyone who has assisted in this or other renewable energy projects. Your efforts are appreciated.

Read more about how your house of worship can go solar!

Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church - Rear view Wallis Calaway | Used by permission
Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church - Aerial view Wallis Calaway | Used by permission

Wally Calaway: We were having monthly educational meetings about the environment, and so I presented one talk on solar panels, and then I think we had also a panel discussion about solar panels. But anyway, Cliff came to me and said, there’s some interest and would I like to work on that? And so the answer was yes. And we began by putting together a committee, which we named the Climate Crisis Task Force. 

And that Task force started out by defining what we thought we should be doing, which basically said that because of the climate crisis we need to be doing everything we can to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel. And we did multiple things. We even did a polling of the church to find out what church members thought. But we eventually came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to put solar panels on the church. 

Then the finance committee decided that even though we thought we had the money we had to have a fundraiser to pay for them. And over three months we did that and we raised 70%. Well, we already knew how much it was going to cost because we had spent a good bit of time studying what the church actually was consuming prior to the pandemic we were consuming 93 megawatt hours a year. 

And if you look at cost benefit, it turned out that because the church wouldn’t get any kind of benefit from the federal government, that it really turned out to be best if we only installed about 70% of our consumption. And so with that, we were able to estimate that it would be about $100,000 to put solar panels on the roof. And that turns out what it was. 

But anyway, it’s decided we needed to do a fundraiser, and we raised 70%. So we raised about $70,000. Immediate donation from the church for funding the project, from individual members, and then the church itself had reserves that they invested in the project of around $30,000 to make up the total amount. 

Environment Texas: Would you recommend other churches or houses of worship to install solar energy? 

Wally Calaway: Yes, yes, absolutely. Gladly. You talk to other churches if there are people that would like to talk to us. I mean, we’ve gone through the process, and we understand it pretty well, I think, and so we could be beneficial.