Sometimes you read a news item that renews your faith in the world. This one out of Virginia in pretty inspiring given some of the challenges we all face due to the ongoing global pandemic.
Let me put it into perspective before diving in. Due to calls for social distancing, many churches have been unable to meet. Likewise many schools have gone to distance learning. And yet both have costly buildings to maintain, heat, and cool until everyone can come together in-person again. The need to reduce operating expenses has never been greater.
Necessity is the mother of invention – or is it divine intervention? – on the part of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. Motivated in part to reduce its electricity bills, the Diocese is installing solar arrays at seven of if churches, schools, and nursing home facilities in Virginia. Construction will start soon on solar arrays at its Pastoral Center in Henrico County and at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Hampton, Virginia. Solar arrays also have been installed at Roanoke Catholic High School, the Church of St. Therese in Chesapeake and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hampton.
There’s another, higher power behind this story. The Diocese also sees adopting solar energy as part of its duty to protect the environment. Here’s what Father John Grace, pastor at Immaculate Conception, had to say about protecting God’s creation.
“We are adding something to the quality of life for the future,” Father Grace said. “Our parishioners, many of whom are retirees, look at our solar project with pride. We are saving about 10% on energy costs, but have also avoided producing about 175 tons of greenhouse gases.”
I know what you’re thinking. How was the Catholic Diocese of Richmond able to afford seven solar arrays? Like many commercial and municipal entities like businesses, farms, schools and wastewater treatment facilities, the Diocese got creative. Here’s how:
First, they reached out to Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that helps guide the U.S. Catholic Church’s response on climate change. The organization helped the Diocese secure almost $3 million in financing through its solar energy program.
At the core of the solution is something I blog often about, power purchasing agreements (PPAs). In a nutshell, the DC organization identified third-party investors to pay for the installation of a solar array at no upfront cost to the Diocese. The investors receive tax credits, plus the Diocese pays the investors for the solar-generated power at a price lower than their current utility power rate. The Diocese has the option to purchase the solar systems in the future. Check out my blog on solar power purchasing agreements here.
The impact of the Diocese’s multi-location solar project is significant. Collectively, the projects are expected to generate more than 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of clean electricity each year for decades while saving the churches and schools more than $2 million in energy operating costs. At the same time, the Diocese’s carbon footprint will be reduced by literally thousands of tons of CO2.
An Awe-Inspiring Path for Other Faith Communities and Non-Profits to Follow
What’s awesome about this story is the Diocese of Richmond’s solar success can be easily replicated with other faith groups across the country as well as by any nonprofit organization. As a solar solutions company, Solential can helps by facilitating the entire process from developing the overall solar strategy and designing, developing and maintaining the solar system.
A major part of our solution is removing the upfront cost barrier through third party investors as well as grants and other financing programs and incentives opens the door for churches and schools across the Midwest to move to renewable solar energy and save large sums of money that can be redirected into community outreach, purchasing technology or hiring more teachers at schools, and providing more services to the elderly. These are huge social benefits!
This is also great news for nonprofit organizations that want to reduce their electricity expenses, redirect funds to directly helping their constituents, and make a positive impact on their communities and the environment. Third party solar investors are not just for businesses; they also invest in solar systems for nonprofits, schools, and many other entities that want to move to green and clean solar power.
Back to the Catholic Diocese of Richmond which has placed their faith in solar energy. The average savings on electricity per school if $11,000 per year. The average savings per church is $15,000. These numbers have convinced them solar is the way to go. The goal is to go solar on 70 percent of the Diocese’ 170 facilities.
If the idea of moving to solar energy to reduce your energy costs, redirect funds to programming and helping the environment strike a chord with you and your faith-based or nonprofit community, let’s connect. Here’s my contact information: Email Cmiller@solential.com or call or text 317-627-4530. Stay safe!