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Tuesday October 24th 2017

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2015 Paris Climate Accord: Carbon Neutrality by 2050: Local congregation signs on as U.S. signs off!

Mount Olive Lutheran Church at 31st and Chicago that is broadly known for its excellence in congregational life, worship spanning Lutheran tradition and innovation, liturgical
richness, musical superiority by voice, instrument and specially organ masters,
outstanding youth work; now bursts forth in environmental concern and commitment
fulfilling the mission of their faith. Photo credit: Mt. Olive website

BY FRANCES STEVENSON

Mount Olive Lutheran Church has been taking big steps towards carbon neutrality this fall installing a geothermal heating and cooling system under their parking lot on the corner of Chicago Avenue and E 31st street.

The church has been working towards the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 despite the United States decision to pull out of the agreement.

The installation of the geothermal system is planned to be finished by the end of October and the lot where the geothermal wells, 48 wells in total, are dug will be paved over as a parking lot as it was before the installation. The goal is to heat both buildings part of Mount Olive Lutheran church, the chapel building and administrative building, without changing either building all too much.

“We really wanted to keep the building the way it was,” Property Director Arthur Halbardier said. “It essentially has not been changed since 1929 when it was built. What we did do was move all the radiators from the old heating system and they’ll be replaced by grates in the floor.”

The geothermal system will have a large up-front cost, the church budgeting an extra $300,000 in their 2017 budget, but system will pay for itself in approximately 20 years in reduced heating and cooling costs. Halbardier said the system is already paying for itself in environmental conscience.

“The congregation unanimously felt that it was the right thing to do,” Halbardier said. “The cheaper route [to modernizing the heating and cooling system] would have still had us using a lot of fossil fuels and a lot of electricity. The congregation is very supportive of this. I haven’t had anyone complaining about not being able to use half their building.”

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To heat a building heat has to be pulled from somewhere, conventional systems taking the energy from outside air, where in the winter, there is very little heat. Because the ground stays the same temperature throughout the year approximately 55 degree fahrenheit, less energy is used to heat the building with a geothermal system. Essentially the geothermal system just moves warm air from underneath the ground throughout the building and then recycles it through the system again. During the summer, the opposite happens; the hot air from inside the building is pushed out of the system and cycled through the wells, being cooled underground, which again stays around 55 degrees fahrenheit, this cool air is then pushed back through the building.

The installation of the wells is complete and the installation of the system in the basement of the church is being completed, the city will have to inspect the system before it can be fully operational but the hope is it will be ready to go by the end of October, when the weather cools down, according to Halbardier.

The geothermal system is not the church’s only environmentally focused energy source. Mount Olive also installed solar panels on the roof of their building this past August as part of Minnesota’s Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program, which pays for solar panel installation over 10 years for those who apply and win the lottery system, approximately 12% of those who apply.

The solar panels will be inspected by Xcel energy and will have a meter installed that allows energy to follow both ways so excess energy produced by the panels that the church does not use will be sold back to Xcel. The system should be up and running in two weeks according to Halbardier.

Frances Stevenson is a Phillips resident, environmental specialist, and first-time contributor writing in The Alley Newspaper.

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