Church looking for help on solar project

Two-thirds of the way to meeting a $10,000 matching challenge grant, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta is hoping to get to the finish line by Earth Day on April 22.

The money will go toward FUUSM’s energy efficiency projects, launched in October 2106 when the first array of solar panels was installed on the sanctuary roof. Nineteen additional panels were installed November 2017. The church at the corner of Third and Putnam streets was the first religious organization in the Mid-Ohio Valley to install solar panels and use them as its main source of electricity.

“We’ve reached the maximum amount we’re able to put on the roof,” said Green Sanctuary Committee member Dave Ballantyne. “We now want to reduce electric usage in the office, which needs a lot of work.”

The separate building that contains the administrative and educational offices is 130 years old. Goals there include the installation of wall insulation, double-pane windows and a new HVAC system.

“It has baseboard resistance heating now, which is very inefficient,” said Ballantyne. “We’d like to go with a heat pump.”

Green Sanctuary Committee chair Dawn Hewitt said the $10,000 dollar-for-dollar matching challenge offered by an anonymous donor won’t fund every project, but it will be a huge step forward.

“With the match it will make a sizeable dent,” she said. “That’s why anyone who wants to support this, every little bit helps the match, even five bucks.”

The church has been accepting individual donations as well as holding fundraising events in order to get the most out of the match.

“It seems that local people want to show their support for renewable energy,” said Hewitt.

Checks can be made out to FUUSM, noting “Solar Match Fund” in the memo line and mailed to FUUSM, 232 Third St., Marietta, OH 45750.

Committee members said they’ve tried to be as public as possible with the project in the hopes of inspiring other congregations and organizations to follow suit.

“We’re not a wealthy church so if we can pull this off, others can too,” said Hewitt. “We’re investing in our beliefs this way. We cherish the universe and its resources and this is an affirmation of that. It’s faith in action.”

The solar panels in place provide up to 80 percent of the church’s energy, with credits stored in the summer that are used in the months with less sun.

The church’s panels benefit others nearby as well, said Hewitt.

“On sunny days, we share the supply with the community, with anyone on the same power grid,” she said. “I live downtown and I get a thrill knowing that it’s possible this is the source of the electricity that flows through my home.”

How to donate

Checks can be made out to FUUSM, noting “Solar Match Fund” in the memo line and mailed to FUUSM, 232 Third St., Marietta, OH 45750.