Solar Faithful
Solar Faithful
Solar Faithful

Solar Faithful


Ann Arbor

Bringing solar to Ann Arbor faith communities

Awarded:: TA Voucher, Participant

Team Information

Team Lead
Emily Drennen
Team Lead LinkedIn Profile
View Profile

Project Description

Project / Program Description

The City of Ann Arbor and Michigan Interfaith Power and Light are working to recruit local houses of worship for new solar installations. The new solar would be “behind the meter” and would off-set at least 60% of a house of worship’s electricity use, with some of the solar acting as community solar subscriptions for members of that congregation. We will also use crowdfunding (donations and/or investments) to reduce costs. Using an innovative billing platform, we are able to provide community solar in a regulated state environment without virtual net metering.

Application Video
Application Video
Project Updates

Summer 2017  We are currently deciding which financing methods we will use for our three pilot congregations. Seven congregations have already reached out to us to learn more about our program.

June 12, 2017 “Solar Faithful” Strives to Bring Solar Power to Local Houses of Worship

July 19, 2017 Issues Of The Environment: Ann Arbor Partners-Up To Get Houses Of Worship To 'Go Solar'

Sept/Oct 2017 The team has done on-site meetings with 5 congregations. Before the meetings, Solar Faithful team members analyze a congregation's electrical bills for estimated project size. We also use the PV watts tool to estimate roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar potential of the congregation's sites. Team members and congregational leaders talk about the congregation's motivations for going solar, what the congregation would need to do to approve a solar project, and the congregation's ability to raise financing internally. The Solar Faithful team is committed to having these on-site meetings with any congregation within Ann Arbor city limits that is interested in our project.

December 4, 2017 Solar powered chapel in Ann Arbor hosting open house and tour Representatives from nine local congregations attended a tour of Campus Chapel's solar installation. The Solar Faithful team also gave brief overviews of the four funding models that the team is interested in developing further.

December 18, 2017 As of today, 15 local congregations have expressed interest in our project. We are working with each congregation to assess solar readiness and solar potential.

February 15, 2018 Solar-powered chapel in Ann Arbor provides sustainable example for other houses of worship About six months after Campus Chapel put up its solar panels, congregation members heard about the Solar Faithful program and reached out to the city of Ann Arbor to share their story and see if they could inspire other houses of worship to undertake similar projects. Solar Faithful organizers set up an open house for December 2017, and about 40 people attended, asking questions about fundraising and implementation."We want to encourage other churches to follow through on their commitments to social justice and caring for the environment," Bouma says. Bob Chapman is the executive director of Michigan IPL, the local chapter of a national organization dedicated to promoting sustainable practices in houses of worship. He says that if the approximately 150 houses of worship in the greater Ann Arbor area all just took a few steps toward sustainability, it could make a big impact – the equivalent of not having to build a new power plant.Harnessing that potential was part of the impetus for partnering with Ann Arbor to form the Solar Faithful program, with goals that Chapman calls "pretty ambitious."

February 23, 2018 Solar Marketplace Event Takes Place March 11

March 7, 2018 Solar Marketplace aims to help houses of worship finance eco-friendly projects

March 11, 2018  On Sunday, March 11, the Solar Faithful team held a “solar marketplace” event hosted by Campus Chapel in Ann Arbor, MI. Approximately 40 people attended including representatives from ten houses of worship located in Ann Arbor, Tecumseh, Saline and Flint, representing Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu faiths. The Solar Faithful team currently has 18 local houses of worship in the solar pipeline and is actively working with eight of them. 

The idea for the event developed out of a solar open house held in December 2017 at which some of the houses of worship asked for the Solar Faithful team for more technical expertise and financing options. The solar marketplace was developed to meet those needs by enabling interested houses of worship to begin or continue their exploration into financing solar and a chance to connect with one another and with companies doing solar financing and installations. 

Rev. Dr. Rolf Bouma opened the program by telling the inspirational story of how Campus Chapel incorporated solar into their 75th anniversary capital campaign. A panel of five solar financiers gave background information about third-party financing and overviews of what services their companies could provide to the houses of worship. Representatives from houses of worship were then able to meet with participating solar installers and financiers one on one.

July 25, 2018  On July 25, the Solar Faithful team held our 3rd session for the public. From previous public sessions, we learned that the two biggest roadblocks Houses of Worship (HoWs) encounter for installing solar are technical understanding and financing. After the introductory session in December 2017, we had a solar market place in March with a panel of installers, some of whom also provide financing, to provide a technical overview.

At this third session, about 30 attendees represented a variety of HoWs and other nonprofits from across SE Michigan. The topic focused on explaining how nonprofits who want to install solar can work with investors to utilize the 30% tax credit and accelerated depreciation for solar. Our DOE coach, Diane Cheklich, spoke about her experience serving as an investor for a solar installation at a church in Ferndale, MI.

As a way to reduce the technical and cost burden for HoWs and other nonprofits, our team used some of our $10,000 in technical assistance funds from the Department of Energy to engage a lawyer from CleanTech Law Firm to develop templates for the three key legal documents (PPA, Installer Agreement, LLC) that are needed to develop a solar partnership with an investor. These documents are now freely available to HoWs and other nonprofits who joined us for the session or who reach out to us.

August 2018 The Solar Faithful team is proud to report that Gesu Catholic School in Detroit, MI has installed a 20.85kW solar system on their school's roof. We're thrilled that we were able to help them meet their mission. Their middle schoolers made a great pitch video about the project which can be watched here:

August 2018 St Peter's Episcopal Church in Detroit, MI has signed contracts for a 10.85kW solar system as a result of working with the Solar Faithful team. They were able to use the legal document templates that we provided to reduce their administrative costs of working with a solar investor from their congregation.