West Medford Community Leader Fights for a Clean Energy Future
Settled on the corner of Boston and Harvard Avenue in a residential neighborhood sits the antique brown-shake West Medford Baptist Church (WMBC). On a beautiful sunny day in Medford, Sunwealth had the pleasure of speaking with church pastor, David Kilpatrick. Hearing about other churches going solar in the nearby community, Kilpatrick partnered with Sunwealth and Resonant Energy last summer to install an 18 kW PV system on the WMBC. Since installing the system, Kilpatrick has seen significant reductions in monthly energy expenses; his bill has gone from $800 a month, to around $135 a month, down to $115 a month, “and that is during the worst part of the year for solar production” he says.
“We would have had to take out a significant amount of money for the system,” says Kilpatrick. “We probably couldn’t have financed this system [without Sunwealth]; we’re a small church and don’t have a large budget so the $700 in savings on my energy bill, that’s significant over a year,” says Kilpatrick.
Pastor Kilpatrick has been an ordained minister for close to 55 years. Starting in 1984, he became senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Malden. After leading their congregation for many years, Kilpatrick transitioned to becoming a pastor at West Medford Baptist Church in 1996. Kilpatrick, who will turn 80 this year, still serves as a part time pastor at WMBC, teaches ethics courses to students seeking ordination, and supervises 45 churches along the North Shore. “I’d be bored if I retired; most of it is the community involvement that I like so much; it keeps me young,” he says.
Although he lives in Malden, Kilpatrick is committed to serving Medford residents. In 2012, he worked with a group of church members to form the Boston Avenue Housing Corporation, a non-profit that renovates properties and turns them into affordable housing. The group transformed the church’s former parish house at 61 Boston Avenue into two apartments that are now occupied by low-income residents. Kilpatrick saw that the energy savings could greatly benefit these residents too. So, he decided to put solar on the housing complex’s roof in addition to the WMBC. This 9kW system saves these residents $450 annually.
In addition to the time he spends as a part time Pastor, Kilpatrick serves on the local Medford Community Center board, where he has been advocating for solar on top of their roof for the past six months. He hopes that the Medford Community Center will eventually come around to realizing their potential savings. The community Center, like WMBC and other communities of faith, is a nonprofit, which means in most cases, the organization is unable to take advantage of tax credits and subsidies designed to make solar more affordable, creating an event larger gap between the solar “haves” and “have nots.”
Sunwealth’s model helps address solar inequity by connecting community-based solar projects with investors. We partner with on-the-ground developers who help us identify strong projects and work with community organizations from conception through installation. With the help of our development partner, Resonant Energy, we identified Pastor Kilpatrick as a community leader that shares our mission to establish solar among the very populations who could benefit most from clean, affordable electricity. – such as low-income residents, nonprofit organizations and municipalities. The community has changed significantly over these past 20 years, but Kilpatrick strongly believes that solar adoption among the residents is a positive change; “If you’re doing something good for the community then people will want to get involved, and solar is a little piece of that,” he says.
The West Medford Baptist Church is a pillar of the Medford community, and solar on their roof top is a testament to a clean energy future, inspiring people in the local community to join the fight against climate change and install solar on their own roof tops. Sunwealth can only hope to continue this fight for a clean energy future alongside community leaders and solar advocates like pastor David Kilpatrick.
About the Author
Savannah Kinzer is an Investment Associate Co-op at Sunwealth and a senior at Northeastern University. She is passionate about democratizing the renewable energy economy to provide an equitable and sustainable future for all.