Solar Panels A Blessing From Above For Congregation

"I about fell out of my chair.  I just came back here and I was just shouting to God."

That's what Pastor Michael Strahan said when he learned how much solar power his church could get for so little.

The Cross Road Worship Center is right outside the Wichita Falls city limits.  Pastor Strahan and his 15 congregants support three different food banks, and even a church in Kenya.  Lately, it's been harder for them to make ends meet.

"We were trying to figure out a way to have more money for our ministries.  We figured the best way to do it was to cut down on electricity," Strahan said.

One of the congregants recommended Strahan talk to 411 NRG to get some solar power for the church.  Initially, the pastor didn't think it would work.

"We can't afford it.  There's no way.  Solar panels are too expensive," he said.

But for two weeks, 411 looked into cost-saving measures.  They found out because the church is a non-profit with multiple entities, it qualified for grants from both Oncor and the USDA.  The grants lowered the price of the 108 solar panels from about $200,000 to just $350.

"Those systems are cost prohibitive.  The fact that they have a break even point on day one is phenomenal," said 411 NRG President Gary Jones.  He says the USDA especially looks for rural locations that fit the qualifications for grants.

Together Strahan and 411 have the site selected for the panels.  Once they're up and running, they'll lower the church's electricity bill by about 92%.

"It almost sounds too good to be true.  But the renewable energy itself is what the United States government has kind of strapped its back with," Jones said.

Now the pastor is grateful the church can soon devote more food and help to the needy, all by powering the lights in the ceiling with the light outside the window.

At The Cross Road, the solar panels will be completely installed by June.

"Green energy is a good thing when it helps your ministries," Strahan said.

Spencer Blake, Newschannel 6