From left, Michael Vrtis, president, Realgy Energy Services; Rev. Richard Mosley, pastor, Hemenway United Methodist Church; Terrence Black, vice-president, Windfree Solar; Paul Szczesny, president, Eco-Solar Solutions, Inc.; and Rev. Zaki L.  Zaki, superintendent, Chicago Northwestern District U.M.C.            RoundTable photo

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On Feb. 17, about 20 people gathered at Hemenway United Methodist Church, 933 Chicago Ave., to announce that the church is powered in part by a 15.4 kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system. The system, which cannot be seen from street level, was installed on the roof of the main church building.

The solar PV system was installed by Eco Solar Solutions of Chicago. “Hemen-way’s church building is a flat roof with a southern exposure, which is a great building to install the solar PV system,” said Paul Szczesny, president of Eco Solar Solutions.

The Hemenway solar system will produce more than 18,250 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy annually and more than one million kWh over the next 25 years. To produce a comparable amount of electric power would require burning 50 pickup trucks of coal per year, which would generate 12,775 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year, each year for the next 25 years of operation, said Michael Vrtis, president of Realgy Energy Services.

Realgy is an alternative energy service supplier in Illinois. It provides Hemenway its electric power under a long-term agreement. Realgy financed and owns the solar system at Hemenway, which pays nothing for the installation or maintenance of the system. Hemenway simply pays the market-based cost of power it uses, averaging 5% below ComEd, said Mr. Vrtis. In addition, the church will receive a discount on the power it uses that is generated by the solar system. Excess power generated by the solar system is routed back into the electricity grid, and reduces Hemenway’s charges.

Mr. Vrtis said the system will provide about 25% of Hemenway’s electricity and will cut its electric bill by an estimated $1,200 per year. It is Realgy’s second solar project in Evanston, he said.

 Bill McDowell, president of Evanston-based USSOLAR Network, said Hemenway is one of the first churches in Evanston with solar panels. He added that the savings generated by the church “will be used for the benefit of the people of the community.”

Terrence Black, the developer of the project and a vice president of Windfree Solar, said, “This is a celebration because we’re having a major impact on the environment, we’re reducing costs, and we’re going to have an impact on people’s lives because there’s more funds to help people in the community.”

Richard Mosley, pastor of Hemenway Church, said, “We share our building with several non-profits who provide vital services to the community. The solar panels provide energy to reduce our energy costs so that we can redirect resources to life- saving endeavors. It’s really exciting to see the roof area with the panels installed, as it builds on our commitment to sustainability.”