Unitarian Universalist Church Rev. Sara Hayman and volunteer Martha Dickinson pose in front of an installation of solar panels at the Ellsworth church. The project was seen as an investment and voted on by members of the congregation. PHOTO BY JACK DODSON

Congregation votes to install solar panels

ELLSWORTH — When congregants come to the Unitarian Universalist Church on Bucksport Road, they’ll be worshipping not just at a religious building — but also at a miniature power generator.

After a task force was created in early 2017 to explore the possibility of installing solar panels on the church’s roof, the congregation voted Oct. 1 to move forward with the plan. While abstentions weren’t counted, church officials said there were no votes against the plan.

Congregants vote on a plan to install solar panels on the Unitarian Universalist Church in Ellsworth on Oct. 1.

On Friday, Reverend Sara Hayman visited the building to watch the installation take place, along with church trustee Mary Haynes and solar task force member Martha Dickinson. Sundog Solar, a Searsport renewable energy company founded in 2009, installed the panels above the church’s main entrance.

The three women said they believed the project is an investment for the church. Not only is solar better for the environment, they said, but it will save money on electricity costs in the long run.

The church raised about $20,000 for the project, much of which came from an anonymous lender, who will be paid back incrementally. About $6,000 came from donations.

“The motivation was to do the right thing,” Dickinson said. “Climate change is a very serious problem… Solar power is now economically possible.”

The church bills itself on its website as a “beacon of liberal religion in Downeast Maine,” and has hosted discussions on books and films about climate change, promoted “sustainable living” and provided sermons on global warming to congregants.

The idea came originally from Dickinson, whom Hayman described as a “fierce advocate of climate justice.” Dickinson said the idea to switch to solar power was present in the church community for a while, but she helped bring up a formal discussion on the issue.

“It’s more than a symbolic act, and that has the potential to shape our actions,” Hayman said. “The congregation is invested in it.”

Jack Dodson
Jack Dodson began working for The Ellsworth American in mid-2017, and covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties. He grew up in the Mid-coast region before living in New York City for five years, where he freelanced in documentary filmmaking and journalism. He is particularly interested in criminal justice, environment and immigration reporting.

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