Inflation Reduction Act funding helps a Detroit church upgrade to solar power - TAI News
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Since 1990, the Lord of Lords Christian Church in Detroit has sought to practice environmental stewardship. Now, thanks in part to President Joe Biden’s signature clean energy infrastructure law, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the church’s leadership has installed solar paneling that will power the church and slash energy bills.

The church’s founding and senior pastor, Calvin Glass, has long been concerned about protecting the Earth and about the impact of pollution on the community. 

“From a biblical perspective, God gave the mandate to Adam to cultivate the land, to take care of the land, so that was his first job,” Glass said in a phone interview. “And so, being a steward, we have to be able to also understand that we are our brother’s keeper or our neighbor’s keeper. … If we don’t care too much about the Earth, we still care enough for our neighbor that the Earth is producing good soil, good air, good water. … So from a theological perspective, an ecos perspective, we should be proactive and make it a priority that we attack the climate problem that we have.” 

As the congregation of what was initially a middle-class Missionary Baptist church faced factory closures and urban blight, Lord of Lords launched a community outreach program that helped feed 50 families a week, provide school supplies for kids, and clean up neighborhoods, Glass said. 

“There was a survey or a test done in our area for the Environmental Protection Agency, where we got an ‘F’ and we failed our pollution test,” he recalled. “So I really got to be proactive in clean air initiatives to try to bring awareness to our community that we’re breathing in a lot of toxics, a lot of polluted air, and that is the reason why we have a high rate of asthma and respiratory illnesses and cancer, because of the air that we breathe.” 

Glass was an early adopter of electric vehicles, and his church installed solar-powered lights in the church’s parking lot. 

A few years ago, after attending a community meeting hosted by the Detroit affiliate of the climate change action group 2030 Districts, he began exploring a path to going completely solar. 

Federal law initially made it difficult for religious institutions and other nonprofits to access solar energy tax credits.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed in August 2022, contained provisions to reduce health care costs and make historic investments in clean energy and curb climate change. 

It also contained significant incentives for individuals, businesses, and organizations to weatherize their property, install heat pumps, buy electric vehicles, and utilize solar panels — and made those incentives directly available to Lord of Lords.

The legislation passed with the support of every Democratic member of the Michigan congressional delegation. Every Republican member voted against passage.

A national nonprofit organization called Interfaith Power & Light offers resources to help religious congregations save money and become greener. Around the country, it is working with faith groups to take advantage of the infrastructure law’s incentives and switch to cleaner and more efficient energy options.

“I’m so excited for Lord of Lords and the ground they are breaking as the first Black church in Detroit to go solar,” Leah Wiste, executive director of the group’s Michigan affiliate, said in an email. “I’m also deeply heartened by the willingness of our supporters to lend money for projects that center racial justice within climate action. We see this solar project at Lord of Lords as one building block of the more inclusive and powerful movement we need to win a livable future.”

Michigan Interfaith Power & Light worked with Glass to arrange grants and loans to pay for the purchase and installation of a 13.91-kilowatt ground-mounted solar panel system, a project that cost $31,150. The Inflation Reduction Act’s incentives will provide a direct pay refund of 30% of those costs. 

Glass noted that his congregation is eagerly awaiting that tax credit. Even with the loan payments, he said, the switch to solar will immediately save the church about $739 annually on energy costs after those federal funds come in.

The savings will go toward keeping the church afloat and establishing a community center where people can go during blackouts and emergencies, Glass said.

He noted that in addition to the financial advantages of going solar, the Inflation Reduction Act is making this the ideal time for congregations to put their beliefs into action.

“I would say this is the best opportunity for us, as people of faith, to demonstrate the mind of God, the heart of God, the love of God, for our communities, is that God has given us the sun and the resources to benefit from, and so we have a good opportunity with the present administration,” Glass explained. “We can actually take the lead for others that really don’t understand the mind of God and the heart of God is that God gave us clean air, he gave us clean soil, he gave us clean water. And so I believe that this is just the right thing to do as people of faith.”

Photo: The Rev. Dr. Calvin Glass (left) and Elder Eddie Sykes Jr. in front of the Lord of Lords solar array. (Courtesy of Leah Wiste/Michigan Interfaith Power & Light)

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