Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the source of funding for the solar panels.
To celebrate Earth Day, Wichita State University’s College of Engineering cooperated with the University United Methodist Church on Wednesday to dedicate the church’s new roof-top solar array.
The rooftop array, which cost $70,000 to install, is one of 15 projects recently funded through Westar Energy’s Solar Photovoltaic Project.
“The sun has always been a profound and absolutely crucial force for all life on Earth,” said Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains United Methodist Conference.
“Today, we gather to celebrate how our sun can help fulfill the massive energy needs of our modern civilization in a clean and renewable way.”
The land the church is located on is already historic, the Rev. Charles Claycomb, minister of the University United Methodist Church, told a gathering of about 100 people on Wednesday.
“The ground we are sitting on is really historic, sacred ground,” Claycomb said. “There was a Native American who came many years ago and developed on this ground a school for the Native American community.”
Henry Roe Cloud founded the Roe Institute in 1915, later named the American Indian Institute. Located north of what is now WSU, the all-male school was one of the first American Indian high schools in the nation.
Included in Wednesday’s celebration were songs by students from Cloud Elementary in Wichita.
“Wichita University United Methodist Church is a tree-hugging, cat-loving church,” Claycomb said. “We believe ecology is at the heart of the Christian faith and practice. God finds intrinsic value in the Earth and all its creatures.”
The project was funded entirely by Westar Energy. The program was done in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It was initiated by Bill Wentz, a WSU professor emeritus of aerospace engineering and former director of the National Institute for Aviation Research.
In the partnership, the church receives a green energy source while WSU engineering students get a chance to learn and help monitor the solar project.
Other Wichita solar projects funded by Westar include a rooftop solar-powered information kiosk at Great Plains Nature Center and a ground-mounted solar array at the Sedgwick County Zoo soon to be installed near the Amphibian and Reptile Building.