Here Comes the Sun! Family Promise of Philadelphia is going green in 2022!
Thanks to a visionary and generous family, environmental investors and two community congregations, Family Promise of Philadelphia (formerly known as Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network) will soon generate enough solar power to offset nearly all its electricity consumption.
This project is the first known collaboration between faith groups, community members and a community nonprofit in which solar power generation will be used to directly benefit vulnerable members of their community.
“With a concept that is replicable and scalable, this will be a model for the rest of Pennsylvania in which institutions can aid non-profit organizations while utilizing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bob Byrne, FPP’s Director of Operations.
The idea for the solar project came from Marilyn and Larry Moyer, members of First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG). The Moyers purchased a portion of the solar panels for FPP and raised additional funds from FUMCOG congregants and environmental activist friends.
The remainder of the project expenses were covered by a grant from The Grandom Institution, a foundation that aids organizations that provide affordable, clean energy to low-income residents and increase the ability of low-income persons to become self-sufficient. Funds that would otherwise be used to pay FPP’s electrical bills will instead be directed to assisting families in our community who are experiencing housing insecurity.
Due to a recent provision in Pennsylvania’s renewal energy law called “virtual meter aggregation”, solar equipment may generate power to credit the equipment owners for all their electrical bills within two miles.
As such, a property with a large roof within two miles of FPP’s operations could be used. Since the roof at FUMCOG was not appropriate for the installation, FPP looked to other supporting congregations that had recently installed a new roof.
Second Baptist Church of Germantown has supported FPP for more than 25 years and shares a commitment to environmental conservation. Conveniently, the Church has also been using its parsonage to house FPP shelter families during the pandemic. The Church graciously offered to allow FPP to install 36 solar panels on its roof.
Second Baptist also decided to purchase and install another 26 panels on its roof that will offset its own electrical usage. Combined, the two arrays will generate 28,500 kWh annually. This solar electric production will offset the majority of FPP’s electric consumption and a large portion of Second Baptist Church’s electrical usage.
Solar States, a Philadelphia company with a deep commitment to working in its most impoverished neighborhoods, is designing the system and will complete the installation in April.
Just as FPP congregations collaborated 30 years ago to provide shelter to families experiencing homelessness, members of FUMCOG and Second Baptist are demonstrating how collaboration and community action can pave the way for a brighter future.
“I was immediately attracted to FPP functioning as a partner because it is an opportunity to introduce environmental activists to the cause of ending homelessness and to introduce our base of volunteers to the benefits of going solar,” said Rachel Falkove, FPP’s Executive Director. “The project does not rely on any of FPP’s operating funds and it provides a way for people who can’t afford to go solar in their own homes to participate in supporting alternative energy initiatives.”
Falkove continued, “The religious communities in our network apply their religious teachings to inform their social justice initiatives. These initiatives include environmental justice, addressing poverty and homelessness, and welcoming immigrants. This project brings together two of those causes and introduces a new way that people can invest in solar, even in a small way, to make a difference for us all.”
FPP is an affiliate of Family Promise and has provided emergency shelter, material goods, and supportive services to families experiencing homelessness for 30 years. Increasingly, its work has broadened to prevent families in our community from experiencing the trauma of homelessness. To find out more about FPP, including ways you can help, please visit www.philashelter.org.