Kanuga Conferences Inc., an Episcopal Church camp and conference facility for 80 years, is installing energy-saving solar panels to heat water at its 1,400-acre campus in the mountains near Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Stan Hubbard, president of Kanuga, noted that the installation of 131 solar panels on the roofs of 11 buildings represents "another step for Kanuga and a very visible sign of its commitment to help preserve the environment."
"I've already seen reactions from the people who've come to Kanuga since the panels went up," said Hubbard. "People ask questions. It is making a real difference in awareness and giving people a resource for sustainability projects in which they might be involved." Hubbard said he has had inquiries from congregations, Episcopal schools, and retirement homes interested in receiving more information.
The transition to water heated by solar energy redoubles Kanuga's commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its energy use at the same time that it reduces costs. In January 2008, Kanuga replaced 3,785 light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs), which saved about $12,000 in energy costs during the year. Estimated savings from the solar hot water system, realized from tapping the sun's power directly rather than indirectly through the use of fossil fuels, are $700,000 over 20 years. Heating water with solar energy thus realizes about three times the savings realized through efficient lighting.
Joyce Wilding, environmental ministry leader in Province IV (dioceses in the southeastern U.S.) and Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, Tennessee, noted that in "a typical American home today, running a hot water faucet for five minutes uses as much energy as leaving a 60-watt light bulb on for fourteen hours."
Progress Energy Carolinas of Raleigh, North Carolina, has agreed to a long-term plan to purchase the renewable energy credits associated with Kanuga's solar water heating project. A utility committed to developing renewable technologies and greater efficiency, Progress Energy can use the tax credits, which a non-profit cannot. This sale represents about a quarter of the cost of the project, noted Hubbard.
Kanuga is in the "beginning stages of living into its commitment to be ecologically friendly, while realizing savings that can help support our wonderful ministries," noted Lucas Fleming, an attorney from St. Petersburg, Florida, chair of the property committee of Kanuga's board of directors.
"We are currently working on a long range plan for Kanuga," said Hubbard. "I hope that we can roll the savings [from the solar thermal] project into other forms of environmental stewardship that would have the same mix of benefits this project does."