Check the Facts About our Solar Panels in response to Pope Francis Encyclical Letter




Solar comes to St Marks


By now you have noticed the new construction that has been occurring in the St. Marks Discovery Lane campus parking lot the last few months.  This construction is part of a Solar Energy initiative begun by the Diocese in November 2015.  Representatives of the Maintenance Committee attended the initial meeting and proceeded to get information.  The main attraction of the program was that it would cost the parish nothing – no installation, no maintenance costs EVER – in return for agreeing to a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with Tritec (who owns and maintains the system) at a long-term kW-hr rate considerably less than SDG&E currently and is projected to charge in the future.

In January, 2016 the Committee solicited quotations from the three diocese-approved providers – Baker Electric, Stellar Solar, and Sullivan Solar – and coordinated through Renewal, a 501(c) renewable energy coordinator engaged by the Diocese for this purpose.  Due to the “changing of the guard” with our priests, the final installation decision awaited Fr. Bruce’s approval, which he gave last Fall.  Stellar Solar ( was selected by Renewal as the best value.

As of March 18th, the system construction is almost complete, with the installation of the 444 panels needed.   After completion, what remains is the final inspection by SDG&E, then the system will be turned on and the savings begin.

Some common questions are answered below.

  • What are the projected savings? Estimated utility savings (based on current usage and current and projected SDG&E rates) to St. Marks are about $62,000 the FIRST YEAR of operation, and over $750,000 over the course of the 25-year contract.
  • Why was a PPA contract entered instead of purchasing the system outright? The upfront cost to St. Marks would have been about $550k plus future maintenance.  In any case, the PPA was the preferred option that the Diocese endorsed.  If it makes financial sense, St. Mark’s has a system purchase at year 10 and year 25.
  • Why was a “carport” used instead of a roof installation? Several reasons:  the roof is over 30 years old, and a carport allowed the panels to be optimally aligned for maximum efficiency.
  • What is the kW-hr rate we will be paying? About $0.23/kwh with a small yearly escalation rate.  Note – commercial electric rates are different from residential rates.
  • Will St. Marks still have a bill from SDG&E? In general, yes.  In the summertime, depending on AC use and weather, we may produce slightly more electricity than we consume, but in winter we will almost certainly not.  In any case, SDG&E does NOT permit solar installations that produce SIGNIFICANTLY more than is consumed based on previous multi-year averaging.  Bills can be paid once yearly rather than monthly.
  • Are all the Discovery Lane buildings covered by the solar array?   Although the solar panels are only tied into one electrical box (JP2), SDG&E uses an accounting system called “Net Metering Aggregation” which applies the solar power generated to all the Discovery Lane campus buildings. The system is sized at 150 kW (DC) under peak optimum conditions.
  • How do we know how well the system is working? The system has built-in monitoring that can determine the power output and “health” of the array at any time of day.  If the system is not performing well, it is to Tritec’s advantage to fix it, since we pay them based on consumption.

pope francis with plantOn June 18, 2015 Pope Francis released the Encyclical Letter Laudato SI’.  On Care for our common home.  He calls us to care for God[‘s creation especially in its water, air and biodiversity.  In light of the Gospel and the environment he reminds us, when creation is harmed, all suffer,, especially the poor.  He calls us to transform our daily life in the decisions we make that affect others and the environment.

Our parish begins with installation of solar to help power our parish campus.  This involves solar panels over our main church parking lot.  Construction has begun and is scheduled to take about one month.  Due to limited parking during the construction, we ask the able bodied to not use the parking nearest to the church for the benefit of those with difficulty walking.

May the Lord bless our efforts to care for creation and all humanity!