Carbondale church becomes the first in southern Illinois to use solar energy


Jorge Sida-Valdez

The entrance to the Church of the Good Shepherd is pictured on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, in Carbondale. (Jorge Sida-Valdez | @JSidaValdez)

By Kitt Fresa, Features Editor

Church of the Good Shepherd installed a solar energy system that will save the church thousands in energy costs and reduce the church’s carbon footprint.

The system is also considered not only the first of its kind in Carbondale but in all of southern Illinois, Dale Ritzel, a member of the church since 1966 said.

The newly installed system which consists of 24 solar panels is estimated to save the church $38,463 in total electric savings for 25 years of energy production. The system is expected to provide 108% of the annual electric use Brent Ritzel, a Solar Project Developer for the solar company StraightUp Solar said. 


“It really became a time for us to go ahead and do this because financially it didn’t make sense to not do it anymore, the incentives were so great,” Kim Magwire, the Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd said.

Thanks to a state rebate incentive for nonprofit organizations included in the Jobs Bill for Renewable Energy, the church is going to get back about 90% of the $23,000 they paid for the system in a year. 

“We’re talking about when it’s all said and done it’ll be a couple thousand of costs to the church, maybe even less than that for a complete solar system,” Magwire said.

Ritzel estimates that within the next two or three years, the solar system will be paid back in full purely by the electric savings.

The financial savings aren’t the only positive effects of the change to solar power Magwire said.

“[Those financial savings] don’t even count what’s saved for the environment,” Magwire said. “With fossil fuels that are burned and the moral cost of it, the savings are enormous as we look at what we really need to start to think about for our Earth.”

With the switch to solar energy, the church’s carbon footprint over the next 25 years will be reduced by 207 tons of carbon dioxide. This reduction is equivalent to burning 201,705 pounds of coal or driving 414,000 auto miles.


“When we generate more electricity than what we can use it goes into the electric grid as a credit. When we need it we get it back as a credit so we don’t pay for it coming back,” Dale Ritzel said. “We figure for a full year we will save actually what we have normally spent for electricity in a year’s time.”

 Magwire said the church has had environmental concerns for a long time and in around 1990 the church adopted a covenant to be a whole earth congregation. This means one of the church’s goals is to be environmentally conscious and friendly.

“Our church members have been interested in this concept for a long time and the positiveness of this is unbelievable,” Dale Ritzel said.

Dale Ritzel said promoting positivity come in many different forms, not just being conscious of the environment.

“[The members] know it’s important for in many cases, for churches to be the example instead of the exception, so we’re trying to be an example,” Dale Ritzel said.

Dale Ritzel said since the church had the system installed, he’s received calls from churches all the way to Kansas showing an interest in switching to solar power.

Members from Church Of the Good Shepard, other churches in Carbondale and other organizations in southern Illinois have been developing a new community solar program. 

Community engagement in the solar program could evolve into where solar systems are put in the Carbondale area and locals in the community could buy panels and utilize the solar system for their own use Dale Ritzel said. 

“[Organizers from the group] had a really productive meeting with the city of Carbondale this week in terms of looking for potential land that the city would be willing to lease for us for a dollar or something so that’s a big part of it,” Brent Ritzel, a Solar Project Developer for the solar company StraightUp Solar said.

Ritzel said this community includes other churches and organizations such as the Muslim Center.

“We have people from 100 different countries in this town, I don’t think that exists anywhere else in America. This group [solar community program] does a good job of representing that,” Brent Ritzel said.

Features Editor Kitt Fresa can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @kittfresa.

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