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Levittown’s United Christian Church Goes Solar!

In 2008, the United Christian Church in Levittown, PA, purchased a solar thermal system from Exact Solar to reduce water heating costs. 

In 2018, Exact Solar’s founders, Mark and Dara Bortman, donated a solar PV system worth roughly $22,000 to UCC. It has provided UCC with thousands of dollars worth of clean energy from the sun for the last six years. 

On January 25, 2024, we were honored to showcase the working solar system to Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick as an example of how powerful PV technology can be for nonprofits. Exact Solar’s founders, current owner, and representatives from PA Interfaith Power and Light also attended. 

Congressman Fitzpatrick’s tour of United Christian Church’s solar systems was part of an ongoing effort by Environment Americaand its state affiliate PennEnvironment to show congresspeople working solar systems on tax-exempt houses of worship. Fitzpatrick praised the experience in a Facebook post a few days later:

UCC’s Chairperson of Administrative Ministries, Bob Gallagher, led the group through a case-study presentation that showed everyone their system, why it works, and why they’d recommend solar PV to other tax-exempt nonprofits. 

A Deeper Look at the Donated System

In 2018, Exact Solar donated a seven-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system featuring 24 solar panels. The solar array has generated an average of 8800 kilowatt-hours per year since installation. Since 2018, the array has reduced the church’s PICO energy bill by about 40%, saving them $1000+ annually. 

Empowering Nonprofits Through Clean Energy

With UCC now liberated from 50% of their burdensome electricity bills, they’re redirecting their savings to expand their community outreach programs. Solar energy systems free up internal capital for nonprofit or commercial organizations. 

Watching people put their money to better use after investing in a solar system is one of the most empowering things about our role at Exact Solar. 

We’ve built over 2000 systems in our 19 years in business, saving our customers millions of dollars.  

One Church, Two Solar Systems

Congressman Fitzpatrick saw two effective systems that day. 

UCC’s Solar Thermal System, installed in 2008, harnesses sunlight to heat water. According to the DOE, heating water makes up 18% of the average consumer’s electric bill. UCC does not have a way to track their exact savings from their solar thermal system, but it’s safe to say that since installation in 2008, they’ve saved thousands of dollars in water heating costs. 

Working together, the Solar PV and Thermal systems provide UCC with huge electricity savings, giving them financial flexibility for their community endeavors.

UCC can track its system performance using online tools and an app, with detailed statistics illustrating its environmental impact and contribution to sustainability. 

UCC’s Tax Benefits and Legislative Changes

In 2018, when Mark and Dara donated the PV system, religious nonprofits couldn’t claim the solar investment tax credit. UCC couldn’t have used the credit to reduce their total cost if they’d paid for the system outright. 

Because of this, The Bortmans worked out a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that enabled them to retain ownership of the system and claim the available tax credits. They gifted this extra power to UCC. 

If UCC were paying to install a solar system today, they’d be eligible for the tax credit. The Inflation Reduction Act gave tax-exempt religious organizations access to the tax credit by introducing the direct-pay option. Now, tax-exempt organizations can receive direct payment from the IRS for part of the total cost of their PV system! 

Bob Gallagher expressed gratitude for Congressman Fitzpatrick’s time on the UCC Solar Tour. 

UCC’s example not only promotes solar energy, but also emphasizes the need to spread awareness about the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act to other churches and nonprofit organizations.

As we join with UCC, we illuminate the path to a brighter, more sustainable future. UCC’s solar energy system showcases the enduring impact of clean energy. 

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