The bright light that suddenly shone inside First Presbyterian Church Thursday morning wasn't a miracle, but it was pretty impressive nonetheless.
Bulky fluorescent lighting hanging from the ceiling of the church's activity room had just been switched out for more compact lights using a third less energy.
But when the installation guys at Staples Energy flipped the light switch, something remarkable happened: The basketball court below lit up brighter than ever.
Staples crew foreman Nathan Cordova loves when that happens.
"A lot of people think saving you energy gives you less light," he said. But in fact, he added, "you're getting better lighting and saving money at the same time."
It gets better: Thanks to a statewide program administered locally by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the church on 17th Street got the lights -- some $30,000 worth -- for only about $2,000 after rebates.
The savings result from a program called Kern Energy Watch, an energy efficiency initiative subsidized by customers of PG&E and other investor-owned electric utilities around the state.
While the program serves municipalities, residents and large businesses, the particular offer at work Thursday is available to small and medium-size businesses and nonprofits whose annual energy use amounts to no more than about 150 kilowatt-hours.
Businesses that contact PG&E about the program receive a visit from a Staples representative who conducts an energy audit to identify opportunities for saving money on their electric bill. If the company qualifies for the rebate program, Staples installs lighting and possibly other electricity-saving fixtures.
In First Presbyterian's case, the church received more than 200 fixtures, some of which are being installed this week in its classrooms and sanctuary.
The church's director of operations, John Bilotta, said the rebates fit within a larger renovation project under way at First Presbyterian.
"We spend over $100,000 (per year) on energy here. It's pretty phenomenal," he said. "So this is going to be more than 10 percent savings."
A Staples representative said the company did 358 Kern Energy Watch upgrades across the county last year, though not all of them were for businesses and nonprofits.
Cordova, the foreman in charge of this week's church upgrade, said there's still work to be done.
"There's actually a lot of buildings in Kern County that have the potential to save on their lighting," he said.