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Local News

Engineer believes Riverside warming to solar panels – God willing

RIVERSIDE – For his first five years of living in Riverside, Scott Jansen endured five or six power outages lasting at least an hour every year.

So, he decided he would be prepared for the next blackout, and installed three solar panels on the roof of his garage. The panels provide his home with enough backup energy to power some essential items in times of need.

“I put the solar panels up about a year ago,” Jansen said. “But since I did that, I haven’t experienced a single power outage!”

That’s a problem Jansen likes having. He also loves the idea of conserving as much energy from the power grid as possible, and he has a couple of good incentives to pursue and promote such a system.

As an engineer, Jansen was intrigued by the prospect of designing and installing the system himself. And as an ordained minister, he believes people have a responsibility to care for God’s creation.

“I was an engineer for about four years, and I was volunteering at a church in the evenings and whatnot,” Jansen said. “And I felt God was calling me to do that. I thought that’s where I really felt I was resonating with my purpose, and so I gave up the engineering job and became a pastor.”

Jansen said he has been pastor of Riverside Presbyterian Church for the past six years. He has been in the ministry for about 25 years, he said.

Jansen earned undergraduate degrees in engineering and computer science from Lafayette College in Easton, Penn.; a master of divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary; and a master of theology as well as a doctorate in the philosophy of religion from Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif.

“I strongly believe that God wants us to be good stewards of the Earth that we inhabit and that we need to do all we can to be green and be environmentally conscious,” Jansen said. “And I know how to do it because I have the engineering background and felt motivated to do it because that’s what God wants us to be doing.”

Between drawing energy from the solar panels and driving an electric car from Nissan called the Leaf, Jansen estimated he has reduced his monthly power usage from the grid by about 10 percent. He has made efforts to let other people know how they can reduce their energy usage as well.

Jansen recently discussed solar panels at the Riverside Public Library. The program was co-sponsored by the Riverside Sustainability Council, Frederick Law Olmsted Society and the library, said Dorothy Sikora, public relations and programming coordinator for the library.

“People were very impressed with him and even the subject,” Sikora said. “We had close to 40 people there. We had students, teachers and parents from Riverside Brookfield High School as well as some engineers.”

Riverside residents previously approved a referendum measure urging village officials to ensure projects done in he village are environmentally friendly. But the village also has an ordinance prohibiting solar panels from being installed in such a way that they can be seen from the street.

Jansen said his first application for a permit to put up his solar panels in February 2012 was denied. But then the ordinance was revised to allow solar panels if they weren’t located right next to the street, he said. Jansen then reapplied for a permit, which was granted, he said.

“There is a fear of the unknown because people don’t know what they will look like,” Jansen said. “But all my neighbors said that mine look great.”

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