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Solar-Plus-Battery Storage Will Keep the Lights on at the Light Church of Chula Vista

Chula Vista (April 11, 2017) -- Solar-plus-battery storage by SunFusion Solar and iDemand Energy Storage (iDES3) comprise the centerpiece of a renovation and improvement project at the Light, First Southern Baptist Church of Chula Vista.

Construction on the sustainable energy system, including 15 kilowatts of solar and a 45 kilowatt hour battery, is expected to be completed this summer at a cost of roughly $110,000.

“Altogether our renovations and improvements will cost upwards of $300,000. Adding solar and battery storage amounts to a significant portion of that sum, but in the long run it’ll wind up saving us just as much,” said Rev. Eric Maggio, lead pastor of the church. "Our primary reason for getting the system was to offset the power needs of the new air-conditioning unit we installed.”

The sustainable energy system will take advantage of San Diego Gas & Electric Co.’s net energy metering program, which credits power producers for electricity they add to the grid, said Jerry Prince, iDES3’s sales manager who consummated the deal.

iDES3 CEO Walter Ellard has arranged hybrid financing for 25 percent of the cost of the solar-battery project - essentially an endowment that the company provides for nonprofits.

“Under this program, iDES3, the developer, buys the system, obtains the federal, state and utility incentives for the asset, and passes them on to the customer,” Ellard said.

As Prince explained, the utility company classifies nonprofits as commercial accounts, and their bill totals are higher than those of residential customers because of demand charges based on peak usage.

“Currently the church’s electricity bills run about $700 a month. Had the church not gone the sustainable energy route, its utility bill after adding air conditioning could easily have doubled,” Prince said. “Yet the energy storage battery will enable it to eliminate its dependence on the grid altogether.”

Said Maggio, “We are very pleased that this system could take care of all of our power needs day or night, even during a blackout. The other reason we wanted to do this is because, as a minister it was important to me that we take care of our environment by going green. Using solar to power our church is just another way we can be good stewards of what God has given us.”

Prior to the project, the 40,000-square-foot structure at 335 Church Ave., which was built in stages starting in the early 1950s, did not have air conditioning.

“The church is about four miles from the beach, and with the cool ocean breeze, air conditioning wasn’t needed,” Prince said. “But now with a warming trend along the Southern California coastline, it is.”

Renovations also include installing new carpeting, repainting walls throughout, and installing new seating in the sanctuary, as well as carving out space for a coffee house-style gathering place.

“All of this requires power and air conditioning, which could get expensive if we did not go solar, and since many of our activities and functions occur at night, the battery power was necessary to keep our power usage off the grid,” Maggio emphasized.

iDES3 was co-founded by Ellard, and COO Raymond Trejo. Since opening the doors in late August, the company’s employee roster has grown from seven to 30. To date, sales have totaled more than $1 million.

SunFusion Solar, a 7-year-old company helmed by Sandy Ellard, has 20 employees and average annual sales of $4 million. Both companies are based in San Diego.

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