Sanford Unitarian Universalist Church SolarSANFORD  – The Sanford Unitarian-Universalist Church – the second church in Maine to generate its own electricity through solar power – is offering to be a resource to other churches and non-profits interested in pursuing solar.

The church is nearing completion of a green energy upgrade that is part of a more extensive building improvement project that began in 2011 in celebration of the church’s 100th anniversary, according to church leaders.

“I am so proud of the congregation for living their values of sustainability and creating a healthy future for our children,” said Rev. Sue Gabrielson. “Many of us talk a lot about our commitment to the environment and to conservation. This project demonstrates that with creativity, passion and persistence, even a small, committed congregation can actually help change the world.

The church plans to hold an open-house in the near future to demonstrate the system and answer questions. An unusual aspect of the system is a power purchase agreement that allows the church to access solar tax credits through a private investor.

“Other churches and non-profits can take advantage of the same tax credit financing we did, although you need to act fairly soon,” said Lee Burnett, co-chair of the Second Century Capital Campaign Committee.  “We are happy to share what we learned.”

The federal solar tax credit program is due to expire at the end of 2016.

The church’s 10-kilowatt solar system was installed by Portland-based ReVision Energy for $28,000. The panels are owned by investors Art and Celina Dumas, members of the congregation. They will recoup their investment through tax credits, depreciation and electricity sales to the church.

Other building upgrades include additional insulation, air-source heat pumps, remodeling and roof work. The improvements have been financed from grants, investors and charitable contributions from both inside and outside the congregation. The fundraising continues

“Some of the most visible improvements are still to come,” said Burnett. Contributions may be made to Sanford Unitarian Universalist Church, 5 Lebanon Street, Sanford, ME 04073.