2016 Fund-A-Need

Solar-Powered Judaism



The Beth Chaim solar panel system is a complete, turnkey solar electric system that consists of 136 commercial panels (these are larger than residential panels), arrayed on the hillside of our property, facing Camino Tassajara. Each panel produces 330 watts of energy (vs. 250 for residential).

Installed in the summer of 2016, the system not only reduces our carbon footprint, but helps us realize significant savings in power costs. By going green, we are able to pay 10-15% less than our previous monthly PG&E bill for the first five years of the project; after that, we pay PG&E nothing at all. The result is a savings of more than a half a million dollars in power costs over the next 20 years.

Costs and Financing

  • The purchase and installation of the system totaled $135,000, with an additional $15,000 for ground and other site preparation, plus a small reserve for ongoing maintenance costs. The total cost was approximately $150,000.

  • The system was purchased, rather than leased, for a variety of reasons. The overall cost for purchasing the system outright was substantially lower than “no money down” leasing offers — even without the tax benefits of a 30% return. Additionally, companies that do loans for solar installations, including several banks with whom we discussed our project, were reluctant to loan to non-profit organizations, especially faith-based organizations, for solar projects. As it stands, we are on track to save almost twice the amount of money by purchasing over leasing.

  • One generous congregant family, Rob and Stacey Kadesh, has loaned BCC $100,000 at a low interest rate of 6.5%. In addition, they have agreed to donate back the interest each year, ultimately resulting in a five-year payoff period for us. The proposed loan costs us slightly less than what we pay PG&E currently, so there is no additional cost to the synagogue.

  • The rest of the funds, approximately $50,000, were raised entirely from the Beth Chaim community, through a Fund-A-Need campaign at the 2016 Beth Chaim Gala — at which key donations were secured from the families of Jon Bronstein, Scott Ehrlich, Deborah Wechsler, Alan Shanken, Bob Spinner, Mary Jo Smith, Rae Corr, and Rob Kadesh — and additionally through a online fundraiser.

  • All ongoing maintenance estimates — in the range of a few hundred dollars — as well as some expected milestone costs, such as repairing broken panels or replacing inverters at the 10- to 15-year age, have been factored in to our overall potential savings in annual electricity costs.

Environmental benefits

  • BCC will immediately reduce its carbon footprint and conserve precious natural resources.

Financial benefits

  • This project will fix our electric costs for the next five years at a slight savings to what we are paying now. However, once our loan is paid off after Year Five, our costs will be virtually zero, resulting in a cumulative savings of approximately $600,000-$800,000 over the next 25 years as utility rates increase as projected.

  • 70% of our electricity needs will be produced by the solar system, but the system has been sized to provide a 100% offset to the current bill — meaning that we will still be able to cover the other 30%. This is possible because we will move to a ”Time of Use“ consumption model where we buy electricity cheaply at night and sell it back in the day at a higher price.

The installation

  • Solar Technologies, a San Ramon company, installed the system.

  • The panels are located on the hillside facing south, along Camino Tassajara. The 136 panels create a footprint of approximately 25’ x 112’ on our hillside slope (mounted less than three feet off the ground), and total 45 kilowatts of potential production.

Donations and ongoing contributions

  • All donations have been added to the total record of capital donations for each individual or family, and are reflected in the members’ totals on the Builders’ Plaque in our foyer.

  • Members may still contribute to the project. All new donations will allow us to get to the zero-cost threshold sooner than the Year Five milestone by reducing our debt obligation to the Kadeshes, thus allowing us to realize the full benefits of the system more quickly.  For more information, call the office at 925-736-7146.