Limestone Presbyterian Church USA,  Wilmington, Delaware
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Solar Project

What is Limestone’s solar project?

Note: The solar project was started and finished in 2008.

The founders of Limestone Presbyterian Church built a church that expressed their faith; they provided a place for worshipping God together (the great commandment is to love God), and they built a simple building that would be easy to maintain so more funds could be used for missions with the building itself being available for use by community groups (the great commandment is also to love your neighbor).




"The earth is the Lord’s
and all that is in it, the world,
and those who live in it"
Psalm 24:1


The southern direction of the Limestone sanctuary roof and its angle could not have been designed better (wonderful in both direction and pitch) for mounting solar panels on it that can convert the sun's rays into electricity which will then be sent out onto the electrical grid (avoiding the expense of batteries). On sunny days when we are not using much electricity, our church's electrical meter will go backwards. In the evenings or when it is raining, the meter will move forward when electricity is being used in the building. The 180 solar panels will produce, in an environmentally-friendly manner, about 2/3 of the electricity that Limestone uses annually.

image   Solar Panel Drawing by Roger Jolly      ( PDF    View Online)


What do the Bible and the Church teach us?

One of the best known verses in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” The word “world” here is the Greek word cosmos and means all of creation so God’s love in Jesus is for the whole creation (including people, animals, plants and more). In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible we are told that humanity is created to take care of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26). The prayer book for God’s people for three thousand years, the book of Psalms, proclaims that the “earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). The Evangelical Environmental Network has an excellent online Bible study looking at caring for creation in the scriptures.

Guided by biblical teachings, our Presbyterian Church (USA) constitution (Book of Order) states: 
"As stewards of God's creation who hold the earth in trust, the people of God are called to:

  • Use the earth's resources responsibly without plundering, polluting, or destroying,
  • Develop technological methods and processes that work together with the earth's environment
        to preserve and enhance life,
  • Produce and consume in ways that make available to all people what is sufficient for life,
  • Work for responsible attitudes and practices in procreation and reproduction,
  • Use and shape earth's goods to create beauty, order, health, and peace in ways that reflect
        God's love for all creatures" (W-7.5003).

Our 1990 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) first declared “its serious concern” about climate change. The Assembly warned that “the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems...” in a study paper titled "Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice."

Our 2008 General Assembly approved a new major study titled "The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming" that lays out a clear and well documented path toward sustainability and equity to protect future generations. A recent Presbyterians Today cover story, "Living Lightly on God’s Creation,” states “Global warming — today’s ‘breaking news’— is not news to Presbyterians long committed to caring for the Earth.” Solar panels will help Limestone Presbyterians do what we say we believe we are called to do in our church constitution and study papers, but this is not a uniquely Presbyterian belief or practice.

All major Christian denominations now understand that God is calling humanity to better care for God's creation. 

  • A June 2008 national Sierra Club report, "Faith in Action: Communities of Faith Bring Hope for the Planet," describes the important role that communities of faith can and are having in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to preserve and protect Creation (Limestone Presbyterians are mentioned on page 9).

  • On March 10th, Time magazine reported that in "a major shift, a group of Southern Baptist leaders said their denomination has been "too timid" on environmental issues and has a biblical duty to stop global warming. The declaration, signed by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention among others, shows a growing urgency about climate change even within groups that once dismissed claims of an overheating planet as a liberal ruse." One Baptist seminary professor "compared destroying God's creation to "tearing a page out of the Bible."

  • Vatican engineers have developed plans for some Holy See buildings to use solar energy, including photovoltaic cells on the roof of the auditorium for pilgrims' audiences with the pontiff. On March 11th, AP News reported "Thou shall not pollute the Earth… Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight."

  • The BBC has many stories about churches’ use of solar: the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus has announced plans to invest $234m in solar energy; Solar Church Hopes To Sell Power In East South Wales; First 'Eco Church' Looks To Sun In Northern Ireland; and Grid Gets Power From God In London.

What are the benefits to Limestone of the solar project?

       image  Solar Benefits Charts    (PDF    View Online )
  1. Health Now:  The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services reported that "pollution from power plants shortens the lives of 95 Delaware residents each year. In our state alone, pollution from power plants causes 13,106 lost work days, 87 hospitalizations and 2,256 asthma attacks every year, 99 of which are so severe they require emergency room visits." These are the energy-related problems being caused now. Global warming will have a far greater impact on people's health. The associate director at the Harvard Medical School recently stated: "Ultimately, public health officials and physicians all have to be bringing attention to the politicians and call for clean energy -- it's fundamental for public health. Our energy is fundamental to air pollution, acid rain to its impact on our health and the health of our environment." Jesus was concerned with the whole person, including their physical well-being. We are called to follow his example and do what we can to help everyone's health. The solar panels will result in less pollution and better health.
  2. Climate Change, Children and Grandchildren: We all want the best for our children and grandchildren in the future. Climate Change is no longer debated among the vast majority of the scientific community: Reports of the National Geographic and the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The National Academies of Sciences (Sciences, Engineering, Medicine), and American Chemical Society also had reports. Newsweek reported in its July 7-14, 2008 issue that Global Warming Is a Cause of This Year’s Extreme Weather.

    There is genuine concern about the world's worsening condition and its impact on future generations.

    Solar panels are one way we can make the world better for our children and grandchildren, for everyone. "The American Academy of Pediatricians is calling upon the nation's government and physicians to recognize the impact global warming has on children's health and develop strategies to protect children from potential harm. Beyond increasing the risk of heat-related conditions like heat stroke and dehydration, researchers say global warming exacerbates common childhood diseases such as asthma and allergies. Children are also at risk of losing a parent or caregiver due to extreme weather. According to the group's report, examples of the effects global warming could have on children's health include:

    • Increased susceptibility to injury or death, posttraumatic stress, loss of caregiver, disrupted education 
          and displacement as a result of weather events such as floods, hurricanes, and droughts.
    • Damage to lung function and growth due to increased air pollution.
    • Increased waterborne and food-borne illnesses, including infectious diarrhea, from increased 
          temperatures and disrupted food supplies.
    • Increase in infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, such as West Nile virus, malaria, 
          and Lyme disease.
    • Increased exposure and vulnerability to heat-related conditions such as heat stroke and heat 
          exhaustion." (WebMD, October 27, 2007)
  3. Church Outreach:  Being the first church in Delaware to go solar will probably result in very positive publicity about the church - both in the media as well as by word of mouth as people talk about the Limestone Presbyterian Church's creative faithfulness and as a place where exciting things are happening. The solar paneled roof will make the church building a more distinctive witness and more visible to the thousands of people who travel Limestone Road daily.
  4. Other Reasons:  The use of solar power decreases the United States’ dependence on foreign energy sources, mainly oil, therefore increasing self-reliance and sustainability while avoiding funds going to countries that do not share our values. We hope our use of solar energy will help to stabilize our church’s electric costs and can reduce our exposure to rising electric costs. We hope our use of solar power will promote reliable electricity by diversifying sources of power as well as our producing power at a high level when it is most needed (hot sunny days when air conditioners tax the power gird).

How much will it cost?

The solar project does cost $251,790, but half of its costs ($125,895) are covered by an already approved Delaware Energy Alternatives Program rebate. The solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years by General Electric. We hope the savings we will have by producing our own electricity, along with funds we will get from "Renewal Energy Credits" (RECs) for producing non-polluting electricity, will pay off the ten-year loan. RECs are only mandated by Delaware for the next ten years so we benefit more from them the sooner we install the panels. Limestone Church Treasurer, Dr. Fred Kirschman, wrote the Session the following: "After careful review of the data and much thought about this project I offer a business/financial perspective. The Financial Model has been evaluated by several engineers and other experts. Detail sensitivity analysis was also performed. From this perspective there is no economic reason not to do this project. It is completely self sufficient….The project will pay off the original loan in about 10 to 12 years. Inverters may need replacement around year 12. From years 14 to 25 the project has a positive cash flow with a potential to return to the church about $40,000 over the life of the project." It represents no financial risk or requirement of the congregation. Our Presbytery of New Castle has given us a short-term loan until a loan from the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP) is finalized. We do need to pay now for a $30,000 new roof on which the solar panels will be installed. Contributions are welcomed and needed for our roof-solar project. Please send your tax-deductible, special gift for the Limestone Presbyterian Church's roof and solar project to the church office at 3201 Limestone Road, Wilmington, DE 19808. Thank you!

Limestone’s Sunny Leaders

The solar project at Limestone Presbyterian Church is the result of the hard work of many church members and friends over a year.

  • Gary Bell (a retired school administrator, scout supporter and grandfather) met with many roofing and 
        solar contractors, carefully explored all of the options and came up with excellent recommendations. 
  • Roy Timmer (retired engineer) did helpful research. 
  • Dr. Steven Hegedus of the Institute of Energy Conversion at the University of Delaware is a leading expert 
        on solar energy and graciously taught an adult class at Limestone and answered countless emailed 
        questions (University of Delaware built “Solar One,” one of the world’s first photovoltaic powered residences, 
        in 1973, a milestone in “The History of Solar”). 
  • Libby Jonczyk recruited her husband Ralf, an engineer who works for GE Solar. 
  • Engineers Tim Bell and his friend Greg Taylor did excellent, in-depth analysis of the project. 
  • Electrical engineers Mike Casale (Sierra Club webmaster) and Dr. Douglas Tipton brought their expertise 
        to meetings. 
  • Long Range Planning Chair (and engineer) Larry Campbell with Alexis Cooper, Roy Timmer, Mike Casale, 
        Barbara Hoover and Carolyn Allen gave support and coordination with upcoming church renovation/building 
  • Finance Committee Chair Tom Loomis with Elders Ruth Smith and Ted Elder were assisted by Church 
        Treasurer, Dr. Fred Kirschman, in dealing with the financial aspects of the project. 
  • Industrial Contractor Roger Jolly served as a contact for the roofers and solar contractors once they started 
        their work. 
  • Bob VanderDecker, co-chair of the church’s Property Committee who worked for years at the Salem Nuclear
        Plant, attended many meetings and helped Roger Jolly in being a contact. 
  • Following special meetings and committee discussions as well as discussions at several of their own meetings,
        the Session (governing body in a Presbyterian church made up of elected lay leaders called “elders” and 
        the pastors) voted unanimously to approve the roof-solar project at their May 6, 2008 meeting.
  Pastors Bruce and Carolyn Gillette are grateful to serve with Limestone Presbyterians since being called there in August 2004. The Gillettes’ life-long love of God’s creation began when they were children from camping trips with their families and when Bruce was a Boy Scout. 

In the fall of 2004,shortly after coming to Limestone, a friend of the Gillettes, Andy Rudin of the Interfaith Coalition on Energy, did an energy audit of the Limestone Church and made many helpful energy-savings recommendations that Bob VanderDecker implemented. 

After attending several lectures at the University of Delaware (and serving on a panel discussion for one), Pastor Bruce Gillette testified for Wind Project before Delaware’s Public Service Commission. Pastor Carolyn Gillette and other Limestone Presbyterians gave out solar BOGO lights on the church’s June 2008 mission trip to Honduras.

Carolyn is also a popular hymn writer and her environmental hymn, "The Earth  is the Lord’s," was posted by Church World Service on their web site.

  After their  son John did careful research, the Gillettes had solar panels installed on their home in December 2007.  

Email Bruce and Carolyn with questions about Limestone’s solar project and other ways people can care for God’s creation

Solar panels on Gillette house

Copyright Limestone Presbyterian Church USA, 3201 Limestone Road, Wilmington, Delaware