FUS of Madison is a community of spiritual and ethical seekers that inhabits a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. FUS is one of the largest Unitarian Universalist congregations in the United States, totaling over 1,400 members.
Over the years, FUS staff and board, the Sustainability Ministry Team, with the support of the FUS community, have developed a sustainable, carbon neutral vision, which now includes a 83kW solar panel system that was added to its campus in October of 2019. The new array was placed on the flat-roofed portions of FUS and outside the green roof on the Atrium addition and has the capacity to generate about 90,000 kW-hours of electricity annually – more than a quarter of the electricity it consumes, or about nine average-sized U.S. homes worth of energy. The system, designed by Full Spectrum Solar, maximizes the energy the building can generate with the roof space available.
“FUS, which has a substantial geothermal-electric HVAC system and with it larger-than-average electric bills, had discussed going solar for a number of years. Recently the congregation dedicated some funds from capital campaign to move forward. However, with financing from the co-op we were able to move faster — without waiting for all the pledged capital funds to arrive — and to build a bigger system than we could have afforded on our own. Another benefit of the arrangement is that many of our members are participating in growing solar on our campus and around the state, through tax sponsorship and co-op bond purchases.”
– Eric Sundquist, Sustainability Ministry Team member
Prior to the installation, preparations needed to be made to replace the aging roofs the system would rest upon. FUS also made energy-efficiency upgrades to the HVAC system in the 2008 Atrium addition, allowing the church to cut MG&E power consumption by half or more. Visitors to the congregation will be able to track energy production in real time.
The system was financed in part by a $20,000 grant awarded by RENEW Wisconsin and donations from members and friends of FUS. Legacy Solar Co-op helped facilitate the partnership with a tax sponsor and bond sales to FUS members as well as the general public.
The solar project is a major step toward the ministry team’s sustainability goals. Together with the solar project, the efficiency improvements will save money and get FUS toward the team’s goal of carbon net neutrality or better. FUS hopes its efforts will inspire its members to be more sustainable themselves.
For more information on this project, see the FUS’s solar page.