By LESLIE COLLINS
May 29, 2013
Thanks to a Northeast High School alum, Nueva Vida (New Life) Church in Historic Northeast is harnessing the power of the sun to reduce electricity costs.
Solar panels now line the church’s flat roof, soaking up the sun and saving the church thousands.
Located at 141 N. Lawndale Ave., the building is more than 100 years old and the cost of heating and cooling the building ranged from $2,000 to $4,000 per month.
“We were spending so much money on electricity,” Nueva Vida Pastor Sam DeLeon said. “It’s (solar panels) going to alleviate all of the financial stress on us and allow us to do things we’ve been wanting to do.”
Those things include operating a food pantry and clothing closet for the community, among other initiatives.
“We want to be able to help our community more and let them know they have a church here,” he said.
Cost of the solar panel system and installation totaled about $100,000, but the church received it for free, thanks to the Eco-Energia of Missouri LTD program, “Community Connection Program.” Based in Blue Springs, Mo., Eco-Energia specializes in heating and cooling and green energy.
“This is our first (solar system) install, period,” said Virgil “Sunny” Julian, owner of Eco-Energia and a 1945 NEHS graduate. “It feels good to give back. I decided that years ago in my life, my function for being here on earth was to make it easier for other people.”
Nueva Vida currently shares the space with Bethany Baptist Church, which formerly owned the building. With a dwindling congregation, Bethany Baptist could no longer afford the upkeep of the building, including repairing damage from a substantial water leak nor the cost of electricity, said life-long Bethany Baptist member Melinda Minks.
Nueva Vida fixed the roof, repaired water damage in the sanctuary and is continuing to remodel the church.
“We have been really determined that God has a purpose for this church on this corner,” she said.
With the solar panel’s financial savings, that purpose will only continue to flourish, she said.
Having a solar panel system can reduce electricity costs up to 75 percent, sometimes more, Julian said. Studying previous month’s electricity usage, Eco-Energia designed a system specifically for the church’s energy needs and then some.
“We designed a system that will create enough usage and power to furnish their usage and extra power to be sold back to KCP&L,” Julian said.
Julian explained that if the solar system is creating more power than what the church is using, it causes the meter to run backwards and the surplus power can be sold back to KCP&L.
“They (church) would actually have a check cut to them,” he said.
For solar panels to function, direct sunlight isn’t always needed.
“Solar panels will actually generate power out of moonlight; they can generate off of other lights, like street lights,” Julian said.
“This business of solar panels is just amazing,” Minks said. “This 21st Century use of God’s gifts, that’s the sun, is enabling all of us to be able to have a place to come worship.”