Center for Sustainable Energy

The Bayview Baptist Church in the Encanto community of San Diego provides a ministry and educational services housed in a towering one-story sanctuary and a larger two-story multipurpose building called the MLK Facility. Rising electrical costs were becoming a serious problem, leading church leaders to consider installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Analysis of their energy consumption showed the increasing bills were driven by peak-demand charges, primarily related to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) needs.

More than 60 percent of the sanctuary’s energy use went to heating and cooling the building, and next door in the MLK Facility, about 40 percent of consumption was for HVAC. As expected, hot weather during summer and early fall drove both buildings to experience the highest electric consumption as well as highest demand charges. Yearly electric consumption for the sanctuary prior to solar exceeded 96,400 kilowatt-hour (kWh) at $28,366. Pre-solar audits showed annual consumption at MLK was about 196,500 kWh at $43,413. That meant their average electricity bill ran around $6,000 per month.

Prior to installing solar, the church needed to repair the roof on the MLK Facility. As part of the work, they decided to apply a "cool roof" consisting of multiple layers of a white, highly reflective material to reduce heating from the sun’s rays. Bayview also changed out the MLK’s 30-year old air conditioning units with energy efficient ones. They had already taken proactive efficiency measures by switching out lights to low-energy fluorescents in the buildings and parking areas, paid for by on-bill financing from San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E®).

Church officials explored owning verses leasing solar and chose a power purchase agreement (PPA), which allowed them to move forward on the project with no money down and a fixed charge for each kilowatt-hour produced at a price lower than SDG&E rates. One important factor was to establish the appropriate solar system size and output as in a PPA, any excess power generated is paid for by the host customer.

According to Gold West Energy officials, by the end of the church's 20-year PPA, the total solar savings are expected to exceed $2 million, which helps to assure Bayview Baptist will survive with the funds available to pursue its mission.