RIVER FALLS — More than a hundred solar panels will be going up on the roof of Ezekiel Lutheran Church next year thanks to the efforts of the church’s Green Team, member contributions and, most recently, a $10,000 grant.

“It was a very pleasant surprise,” Green Team member Sandy Tauferner said about the grant from RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program.

The River Falls church was one of 17 Wisconsin nonprofits awarded more than $190,000 in grants and materials to install solar energy systems, according to RENEW Wisconsin, an organization that promotes renewable energy development in the state.

When Ezekiel Lutheran’s 129 panels are operational, the system is expected to save the church $4,000 per year on electricity. The project will be completed by Hudson-based Energy Concepts Inc. and Steiner Plumbing, Electric & Heating in River Falls.

Tauferner, who sometimes wears a sun-themed costume as the persona of Solar Sandy, said the congregation has been very interested in and supportive of the project, adding that 81 individuals and families pledged to contribute.

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“They all saw the need to contribute and help reduce our carbon footprint,” she said.

The church has engaged in a range of environmental initiatives, from installing a rain garden to filter water runoff from the roof to incorporating environmental stewardship lessons in confirmation classes, said Gwen Conklin, chair of the Green Team.

“We're just trying to educate our church to go out and be good stewards of the Earth,” Conklin said.

The Solar for Good grant was the final piece of the funding puzzle for the solar panels, but the project also is supported by grants from River Falls Municipal Utilities and WPPI Energy.

Tauferner and Conklin said they wanted to thank church business administrator Paul Moe and Mike Noreen with the city of River Falls for their help throughout the grant application process. They also credit the help of local churches that are part of Hope for Creation, a collaboration of faith communities to advocate for environmental sustainability — particularly members of the First Congregational United Church of Christ and St. Bridget Catholic Church, which installed solar energy systems previously.

The stretch of cold weather in October means the panels likely won’t be installed until spring 2021.