Sam Saltonstall is a member of the Neighborhood United Church of Christ in Bath, which is holding a series of informational meetings on the use of clean energy. To that end, the church plans this spring to install solar panels on its roof. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BATH — “I want you to panic,” 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told world leaders last year, urging them to act immediately on climate change.

Her grim warning inspired the name of a five-part community conversation – “Panic to Progress: Building a Resilient Climate Future for Bath – which will launch at the Neighborhood United Church of Christ on Wednesday, March 18.

“Panic to progress to me means to move from a state of helpless concern to one of purposeful action which creates hope for the future,” said Sam Saltonstall, one of eight church members organizing the sessions, and formerly a community energy volunteer with the Island Institute.

Along with Paul Perkins, Saltonstall on March 18 will use En-ROADS, a science-based simulation tool, to explore various methods of limiting global warming. The program uses 15,000 equations to determine how worldwide climate goals can be achieved through changes in energy and land use, consumption and agriculture, Saltonstall said.

The sessions are “an effort by our church to inform local citizens about the dimensions of the climate change problem and to help them contribute to local solutions and help them adapt to the coming climate changes that we can’t prevent,” Saltonstall said. He hopes those who attend the meetings will gain “a better understanding of the reality that there is no silver bullet that will ‘fix’ climate change, only silver buckshot, but if we act now there is much we can do to reduce the warming problem in many different ways.”

The Maine Climate Council reported in January that the statewide annual mean temperature since 1898 had risen 3 degrees Fahrenheit, from 39 to 42, with the six warmest years occurring after 1998. That temperature could rise another 2-10 degrees by 2100, depending on whether carbon emissions are lower or higher.


“The warming is a worldwide problem, but we need to tend to our own backyard and do our share to lessen the impact,” Saltonstall said.

The church, located at 798 Washington St. at the former Admiral Steakhouse, looks to do just that this spring by having Maine Solar Solutions install 26 solar panels on the building’s south- and west-facing roofs. Fundraising is ongoing for the nearly $25,000 project, through which the church looks to avoid emitting 9 metric tons of carbon annually – the same as more than 22,400 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle, according to Saltonstall.

The church consumes about 12,800 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. Prior energy upgrades to the building include an audit, roof repair, air sealing, LED bulbs, attic insulation, and a heat pump purchase.

The installation could pay for itself in about 13 years, Saltonstall said; he expects the panels to generate electricity another 25-35 years.

“But we view this effort as stewardship of the planet more than a money-saving measure,” he noted.

There is consensus among scientists around the world that increased fossil fuel use, and the resultant rise in greenhouse gas emissions, impacts the health of the planet and its people alike, said Sam Zuckerman, president of Maine Solar Solutions.


“A lot of our customers who are installing solar … are making the decision because it makes financial sense for them, but a lot of them are also motivated by the fact that it is … a really concrete thing a homeowner can do to reduce their carbon footprint,” he explained.

The company has made about 600 installations in the past eight years, and recently placed its 10,000th solar panel, Zuckerman said.

The sessions are being held at the Neighborhood church from 7-8:30 p.m. April 8’s gathering will feature tips on reducing energy use and making homes more comfortable in winter. The April 29 meeting features heat pumps, which are used for space and hot water heating and cooling.

On May 20 a “farmer’s market” of volunteer organizations will discuss ways to get involved with the climate issue. On June 10, Zuckerman will present information on rooftop and community solar options and the purchase process.

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