By RaeAnn Slaybaugh

Perhaps better than anyone else in the United States, Arizonans know the value of being able to park in the shade. It’s a major perk. 

And now, Scottsdale Bible Church — which has appeared on lists of the largest churches in America (and is certainly one of the biggest churches in the Phoenix Metro Area) — can offer covered parking and shaded play areas to churchgoers at two of its four locations … so far.

When Matt Meixell and his team began looking into shade structures for Scottsdale Bible Church in Scottsdale, Ariz., they weren’t ready to pull the trigger on an installation at the large main campus just yet. 

As former director of facilities and security at SBC, Meixell recalls that although he liked what Tempe, Ariz.-based Scout Solar had to say about the cost savings and environmental friendliness these structures offered, the decision was to start smaller with the North Ridge campus, a satellite location of SBC. “It was kind of a proving ground,” he explains.

In particular, SBC wanted shade for its play structures at North Ridge. Otherwise, that fun equipment — which kids really enjoy — becomes virtually unusable for a good part of the year due to the extreme heat.

The Scout Solar team came up with a design which Meixell says “made a lot of sense” and “worked out really, really well.” 

With the litmus test satisfied, SBC leaders decided to move ahead with shade structures on the main campus. This time, they wouldn’t just cover play areas, but also the vast parking lots. Overall, the second installation covers more than twice the square footage of the first installation.

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Although it was a big job, not a lot was required of Meixell and his facilities team to get the project underway. Mostly, they were asked to mark out and section off the different areas in which work was underway so that vehicles and people would stay safe and out of the way.

Beyond this, Scout Solar sat down with Meixell and worked out a plan to minimize worship service and operations disruptions at the church during installation.

“We really talked about it. What are our peak days? On what days do we have less traffic on the campus? And they worked around that schedule beautifully,” he recalls. In the end, the plan “accomplished what we wanted as quickly as possible,” he adds — even in spite of COVID-related supply chain issues.

While the shade is a big hit among churchgoers from a practicality standpoint, they also like the eco-friendly message SBC is sending. 

“They were really appreciative that we would utilize our natural resources to the very best of our abilities,” Meixell says. “They liked that we improved the environmental aspects of our local community and tried to save some energy and save some dollars along the way.”

Save, they did — and will continue to do

Already, Meixell estimates the church has shaved 5% to 10% off its energy bills, at minimum. He says he expects to that figure to grow over time. It’s a significant advantage in a state where even an average home’s monthly utility bills can run several hundred dollars during the summer. 

Over the next 30 years, Scout Solar estimates immense savings: up to 458,038 gallons of gasoline; 1,409 tons of waste; and 27.5 acres of forests.

“That was one of our [primary motivations]: to preserve our resources and be good custodians of the environment,” Meixell points out. “This was just an opportunity to do that and to help serve our community.”

Now, SBC is looking to add solar structures to its third location, the Cactus campus. 

After that, the church might add them at the fourth (and newest) campus in Fountain Hills. 

“I think the only reason we didn’t already move forward with [that site] is because it was a different power company, with different rules and restrictions that weren’t favorable at the time,” he recalls. “That might have changed by now.”

As SBC expands its solar installations across all sites, church leaders can expect to enjoy the same ease experienced during the first two projects. 

“From the president all the way down to the guys that were working onsite, everybody was very professional, very friendly, and would answer all our questions,” Meixell says. “They just did a really thorough job of telling us what the process was going to be and what we could expect. That was so, so refreshing.”


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