Though Trinity Presbyterian Church of McKinney has a rich history that harks back to Collin County’s first settlers, its 21st century congregation is looking toward a bright and sunny future – not only for itself but for other churches in Texas. 

“Solar energy,” says Phyllis Tippit, Trinity’s Parish Assistant, as she points to the church’s 22 solar panels, “is an excellent way to care for God’s creation. It just makes sense. Why not do something that helps this beautiful planet God gave us, while giving us a way to save money in the future?”

As far as Tippit knows, Trinity Presbyterian is the only church in Collin County that has solar panels, but she expects to see more churches join Trinity in using sustainable energy sources. “It’s a combination of good stewardship and good economics.”

The church’s environmental ministry team, whose ages range from 5 to 75, worked hard in 2018 and 2019 and succeeded in getting 22 solar panels on Trinity's roof by the end of 2018, and now are close to reaching their new fundraising goal of $14,000, which will allow them to purchase 22 additional panels. If their goal is met, Trinity will have 44 solar panels on its roof by the end of 2020.

Several donors contributed to the cause, but the group also sold T-shirts, collected electronic waste from the community and asked congregants to collect loose change from their households, a fundraiser the group refers to as “Pennies for Panels.” 

Ward Vestal, who donated the initial seed money to jump start the project, said it has long been a dream to see solar panels on Trinity’s roof. 

He watched as his church worked hard over the past decade to shrink its carbon footprint. However, he found it frustrating that Trinity’s environmental success story remained one of McKinney’s best kept secrets. How would other church communities know that they too could make a change, and save money in the process, if the good news stayed within the brick walls of this 750-member church? 

“Putting solar panels on Trinity’s roof is good for the Earth, and it makes financial sense. But it’s great for spreading the word,” says Vestal, who hopes that other churches will see what Trinity is doing and encourage their own congregations to begin taking small steps to help the environment. 

Currently, Trinity’s panels provide over 7800 kwh per year, which offsets about three percent of the church’s total electricity costs. If the church can install another 22 panels by 2020, these numbers will double. 

“Any for-profit or nonprofit business needs to look at solar power as not only good for the environment, but also good for the bottom line,” Vestal said. “After you do the research, you realize that it just makes sense economically.”

Vestal’s dream for Trinity is that one day more than 50 percent of the church’s energy needs will be offset by solar panels. 

“It will take a lot more panels,” he says. But sporting one of the T-shirts his ministry sold as a fundraiser for solar panels, he seems optimistic. He points to the big yellow sun emblazoned on the shirt and then the slogan beneath reading, “The future for solar energy is bright.” 

Solar panel installation
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