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Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara Is Going Solar; Community Invited to Celebration

This Sunday, Nov. 9, the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara will be holding a “Solar Celebration” to honor the installation of new solar panels and highlight the congregation’s efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. The Unitarian Society hopes to lead by example and inspire others to do their part for a more sustainable future.

In 2013, the congregation passed a Resolution on the Climate Crisis, affirming the urgent need to respond to the threat of climate change. A Climate Crisis Team was formed that conducted an energy audit of the landmark property at 1535 Santa Barbara St. In 2014, the congregation voted to divest their endowment funds from fossil fuels, joining a nationwide movement to move away from a fossil fuel economy.

“This is a global challenge that will require local action,” said the Rev. Julia Hamilton, associate minister at the Unitarian Society. “We have everything we need to shift our course on the climate, but we have to have the willingness to change.Business as usual will not save us.”

The Unitarian Society has hired Allen Energy, a division of Allen Construction, to help the congregation achieve their goal of becoming a carbon neutral organization. Allen Energy is currently installing an 11 kW solar photovoltaic system that will produce 18,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, which is an estimated 31 percent of the Unitarian Society's entire power needs and enough power to offset 100 percent of the energy needs for two of the buildings on campus, Jefferson and Blake Halls.

Over the 25-year life of the system, it will offset 375 tons of C02, the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities and the most significant contributor to climate change.

This project is only the beginning of the Unitarian Society’s larger plan to become “net-zero.” It is currently working with Allen Energy on additional energy-efficiency measures that can reduce the remaining 70 percent of the congregation’s energy consumption, including energy efficient lighting, HVAC system upgrades and passive shading to increase comfort in all buildings.

“I have seen our members respond to this challenge with creativity, commitment and a renewed sense of hope," the Rev. Hamilton said. "The problem can seem overwhelming, but the best antidote for anxiety is action, and step by step we will lead the way toward a more life-sustaining future.”

The community is invited to join the Unitarian Society at the celebration, starting at 12:15 p.m. following Sunday’s 11 a.m. service. Barbecue fare and refreshments will be served in the backyard — the best place to view the new panels! To attend the celebration, or to learn more about The Unitarian Society’s efforts, contact the Rev. Hamilton at 805.965.4583 x244 or [email protected].

Allen Energy provides energy efficiency and solar solutions for residential and commercial clients. Its goal is to provide cost-effective and sensible upgrades to reduce the operating costs of its clients’ homes and buildings while replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. With 30 years of energy efficiency and solar design experience, Allen Energy provides a suite of energy services that includes energy auditing, building performance assessments, passive solar design, energy efficiency upgrades, solar energy installations and system commissioning. Click here for more information.

— Karen Feeney is the marketing manager for Allen Construction.

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