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February 15, 2011

Green Church

This upcoming Wednesday, Andree' and Marta from USEE will be going on a tour of the first "Green Church" in Utah, a LEED Silver LDS church in Farmington. The LDS church wrote an article about some of the features of this building when it opened last year. Check it out:

Solar stake center harnesses power of the sun

Prototype to evaluate feasibility of energy-saving meetinghouses
By Greg Hill

FARMINGTON, UTAH Though a new stake center in this northern Utah community is brimming with environmentally friendly technology, the most visually evident are the 158 solar panels covering a portion of the south side of the roof.

The building is a prototype designed to evaluate the feasibility of solar power in Church meetinghouses. Other such prototypes are being built in Eagle Mountain, Utah; Apache Junction, Ariz.; and Logandale and Pahrump, Nev.

Presiding Bishop H. David Burton said at a media conference April 27 in the cultural hall of the meetinghouse, "If it works in the northern clime like Farmington, Utah, we have great optimism it will be successful in other parts of the world."

The building, situated on flat land near the Great Salt Lake about 13 miles north of Salt Lake City, has full exposure to the sun as it rises over the eastern mountains and arcs over the southern sky. The stake center is expected to open sometime during the next few weeks.

Bishop Richard C. Edgley, first counselor to Bishop Burton, reviewed methods the Church has instituted over several decades to be environmentally sound while being mindful of needs of members. Diving so fully into solar power is the latest.

Bishop Burton told the Church News, "There is something very doctrinally sound when we talk about conservation of resources, when we talk about being responsible. Not only responsible in the environment, but responsible for our own lives and how we live them and the direction our lives take. Those kinds of things are very important in terms of our individual members.

"Like parents, we have teaching moments. We can say this is a teaching moment. Not only are we trying to do it institutionally, we hope that our members will use responsible, conservative kinds of activities as they conduct their own personal lives."

From simple bike racks to encourage members to ride their bikes to meetings when they can, to thermostats that can self-diagnose heating and cooling systems and e-mail reports of problems to a local facility manager before anyone calls in a complaint of "too cold" or "too hot," the stake center is an example of environmental responsibility.

Lights will automatically shut off in empty rooms because of motion sensors. Eighteen residential furnaces make it possible to heat the building's 10 zones individually. Instantaneous tankless water heaters provide hot water for rest rooms and the baptismal font, replacing 100-gallon tanks that consumed energy keeping the water hot 24-hours-a-day whether needed or not.

According to Jared Doxey, director of architecture, engineering and construction for the Church's Physical Facilities Department, "A lot of little things might not seem on their own to make a big difference. But when you start adding up the little things … the cumulative effect is that it reduces the total cost of ownership for this building as we operate it for the next 50-75 years."

During the morning, Brother Doxey conducted a tour of the building, pointing out many of the "little things" that will save money and conserve the environment.

Bishop Burton said environment responsibility is important to the Church as it improves the surrounding community in reducing energy use, water use and pollution.

The stake center is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified at the silver level by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council. Points toward certification are awarded based on several environmental criteria such as energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions and improved indoor environmental quality.

The solar energy is a big part of the building's certification. An inverter on the grounds, about the size of a kitchen range, regulates the solar energy, Brother Doxey said. When the solar panels are not producing enough electricity, the inverter draws in power from an outside grid. When the panels are producing more electricity than the building is using, the inverter sends it out to the power grid and it is purchased by the electric company. That means, he said, that between buying and selling electricity, it is expected that the building's electricity cost for a year will be net zero.

An interesting feature in the building is a computer readout of energy use. It shows the amount of electricity being produced by the solar panels and the resulting cost savings. As icons are clicked, it also displays how much coal would be consumed producing the same amount of electricity, the time a blow dryer would run on that amount of electricity and the reduction in CO-2 emissions by using solar power.

The readout can be viewed on a screen in the materials center or wirelessly on a computer.

Bishop Burton said the readouts can be used to help members learn about the value of energy conservation in the Church and in their personal lives.

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